Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday that the words “Providence Plantations” will be removed from state websites, pay stubs and gubernatorial communications as part of a broader effort to establish a more equitable state.
Speaking during a news conference at Billy Taylor Park in the Mount Hope section of Providence, Raimondo described “Providence Plantations” as a persistent source of pain for Black Rhode Islanders.
While the words originally referred to the mainland of the state in Colonial days, she said that is less relevant than the ongoing impact.
“We can’t ignore the pain conjured by the word plantations,” Raimondo said. “We can’t ignore how painful that is for Black Rhode Islanders to see that and have to see that as part of their state’s name.
“It’s demoralizing!” cried out a man in the audience.
“It’s demoralizing,” Raimondo said. “It’s a slap in the face. It’s painful.”
The governor said Black Rhode Islanders have told her they won’t display citations from the state in their homes because of the sting of the word “plantations.”
As part of an initiative that she calls “RIse Together,” Raimondo said she is taking other steps, including ordering implicit bias training for executive office employees, directing State Police to form a community outreach team, and having the State Police seek funds to equip all troopers with body cameras,
A string of elected officials of color, including state Rep. Anastasia Williams, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Providence City Councilor Nirva LaFortune praised Raimondo’s steps.
But Williams and LaFortune said more needs to be done to dismantle systemic racism and address issues like affordable housing, job opportunities and equitable education.
LaFortune said two recent shootings near the scene of the news conference happened in recent weeks because poor children of color are forgotten.
Also speaking during the news conference was 16-year-old Faith Quinnea, who helped organize a large recent demonstration in Providence. She said she was proud of helping to make a change and got a big cheer when she called for a heightened focus on teaching Black history in Providence schools.
Rhode Island voters rejected removing “Providence Plantations” from the state name in 2010.
Spurred by the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, momentum has shifted in state government. General Treasurer Seth Magaziner said he’s taking “Providence Plantations” off checks from his office, and the General Assembly said it will remove the words from its documents.