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Monday, December 6, 2021

Rhode Island voters chose to remove the word “plantation” from the state’s name. A year later, he remains on display

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) – Rhode Island removed Providence Plantation from its name a year ago, but not from its buildings.

Providence Plantations are written in marble near the dome of the State House and on bronze plaques at the entrance. The state seal with the full former name is found on the floor of the rotunda, elevator doors, door numbers and signposts. It’s even on the rug in front of the portrait of George Washington in the government room.

Voters decided to remove the words “and Providence Plantations” from Rhode Island’s official name a year ago, endorsing a state referendum that was renewed amid recognition of racial injustice in the country following the assassination of George Floyd. The word “plantation” did not specifically refer to the place where the slaves worked, but advocates of the measure insisted that it evoked similar images and was offensive.

Democrat Gina Raimondo signed a decree in June 2020, when she was governor, to change the salaries of civil servants and the websites of executive agencies. Voters approved a referendum in November 2020.

Since then, the state has changed the official websites, business cards and salaries of civil servants. A new form is used, quotes are issued with a new state seal.

READ MORE: Voters remove “Providence Plantation” from Rhode Island’s official name

The administration is still compiling a list of places where the wording still exists, as well as identifying possible costs and best practices for disposal, administration officials for Governor Dan McKee said. By the end of the year, a working group will meet to develop goals for the next year.

Rep. Anastasia Williams, a Providence Democrat, pushed for the state’s name change. Now she says there are other, extremely serious problems that need to be addressed by the state leadership: the ongoing pandemic, the growing number of homeless people, the need to accept immigrants and refugees, and the education system that has failed to cope with children of color.

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“I have not forgotten the importance of this, but where it is a priority for me, we have already won this battle and we know that it needs to be done,” Williams said last week. “We have a few serious things that aren’t even seriously considered.”

She added that leftover images of the old name could provide an opportunity for conversation about what voters voted for and why.

Secretary of State Nelly Gorbea maintains the state seal and uses a new embosser to apply the updated state seal to official documents.

Gorbea is running for governor. If elected, she said she would make sure that there is a plan to remove the old name from more difficult places, especially from the seal in the rotunda of the State House, as many people see it there.

“This is the change the voters wanted, and so we should have at least a plan,” Gorbea said. “If this has not been done, why not? But if possible, let’s do it. “

In early November, officials from the State Department of Administration said they would share an inventory of the places where the old state name was written and the costs of changing it, but they did not provide the Associated Press with these statements this week. In the DOA building, the old government seal is on the front desk and in the room guide.

Rhode Island was incorporated as Rhode Island and Providence Plantation when it proclaimed statehood in 1790. In 2010, nearly eight out of 10 voters rejected the shorter name in a referendum.

Gorbea said she fears people will become cynical if they vote for the change, but most public appearances remain the same.

“The state has changed,” she said, “times have changed and the government must change to adapt to this.”

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