Hope

Photo: Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

It’s all been dreary bad news this morning, amiright? So we need a pre-palate cleanser, um, cleanser and here it is:

Rhode Island moves to change state’s official name due to slavery connotations

The state of Rhode Island is moving to change its official name — “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” — due to its connection to slavery.  Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday to change what appears on government documents, and the state’s legislature is moving forward with a bill to alter the name entirely.

I had no idea that was Rhode Island’s official name. That’s ghastly.

The order will shorten the name to “Rhode Island” in official communications from the governor’s office, including executive orders and citations, and will also change the state’s website. It will also remove the word “plantations” from all state agency websites and official correspondence, effective “as soon as practicable.”

I’m sure that the New Confederacy defenders will jump on protecting this history right away, cancel culture, etc, save the statues, and so on, even when the people vote to change it.

The Rhode Island Senate unanimously called for a statewide vote on the name change last week after the bill was introduced in part by the state’s only Black senator, Harold Metts. The state legislature signaled it will move forward with the referendum.

When something has a name, it has power. Changing the name, whether it is a brand of syrup or a NFL team (come’on, sports, it’s long overdue), or a state is a powerful symbol that times are finally changing. Way too slowly, of course, but I’ll take it.

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8 Responses to Hope

  1. Dave Lippman says:

    I was always amused that the smallest state in the Union had the longest name of any state in the Union. Most of the state IS Providence.

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  2. Infidel753 says:

    Better good boys than good ol’ boys.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. sos says:

    Who knew something that small could be so offensive? What’s that? Ben Shapiro you say?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. purplehead says:

    Now, how do we change the name of the state of Warshington? And to what? Maybe a Salish name. And then, the Columbia River. The latter could be called Nch’i-Wàna, the Sahaptin name for the Great River. The whole state could be called that, actually, since most the state is in the drainage basin of the River.

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  5. Dennis Cole says:

    It saddens me, that perfectly good words get associated with something not really connected, and therefore fall out of use, or are driven away, anyway. And I know – most plantations would not have been on sound financial footing without the use of slaves, as we hadn’t yet fully transitioned into the Mechanical Age of Agriculture. And I certainly have little or no reason to use words such as “Pickaninny, ” or “Negro,” or even the hateful “Nigger,” but who draws the line? Who sets the standards? Or should we just let common usage determine the boundaries?

    Because once words are imbued with such power, it is not easily remanded.

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  6. Mary Ellen Sandahl says:

    Well, the ghastliness is something that’s adhered in our time, not something original to the naming of the place. As the linked article hints, the term “plantation” in the 17th century New England situation didn’t mean what it later meant in the slave-owning South.
    It was a general term for a purposely-established, or “planted” settlement of people, initially from Britain to the New World. The village founded by the Mayflower immigrants was called the Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, 4 times governor of the Plymouth Colony, in his 1646 history of the colony’s founding and first 20 or so years of existence.

    As for Rhode Island, I’ll just copy what Wikipedia says: “Providence Plantations was the first permanent European American settlement in Rhode Island. It was established [in 1636] by a group of colonists led by Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke who left Massachusetts Bay Colony in order to establish a colony with greater religious freedom.” So in that case they were trans-“planting” settlers from the Bay Colony to the new site they named Providence.

    There was, of course, legal slavery in New England early on, but the climate and ecology would never have lent itself to Southern-style forced-mass-labor private estates covering many hundreds of acres, intensively producing one or two cash crops (sugar, tobacco, cotton, etc) for very profitable export.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. roket says:

    The times they are a-changing and there’s no changing that.

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