Senate approves Rhode Island name-change bill

The measure would head to voters following approval in the House of Representatives
R.I. State House (FILE)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE)- With the state Senate approving a bill looking to change the state’s name, Rhode Islanders are one step closer to seeing the measure on the ballot in November.

The bill, which looks to drop “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name, heads to the House of Representatives for final approval before the matter is put before voters. Because it would require a change to the state’s constitution, the General Assembly can only approve a ballot measure.

State Senator Harold Metts introduced the legislation; Metts had introduced a similar bill in 2009, which was rejected by voters in 2010.

“A decade has passed since the public was asked this question. Attitudes may have changed substantially, even in the past few years — and even in the past few weeks,”Metts said. “Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations’ in the context of Rhode Island’s history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the tragic and racist history of our nation.”

Metts, who serves as deacon at the Congdon Street Baptist Church in Providence, traces his maternal lineage to Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, Virgina, through his great, great aunt, Bertha Hawkins-Cooper.

“Making this change would pay some respect to our ancestors who were forced into slavery, and would stop serving as a constant reminder to present-day Rhode Islanders of our painful past,” Metts said. “The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us. Not unlike the debate over the Confederate flag, retaining the term does nothing to memorialize history but conjures an unnecessary and painful reminder of our racist past.”

Rep. Anastasia Williams introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives earlier today.

©WLNE-Tv/ABC 6 2020

 

Categories: News, Rhode Island