PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence’s mayor ordered the word “plantations” scrubbed from Rhode Island’s official state name on official city documents on Friday as protesters planned to mark Juneteenth with a downtown march.
Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza announced ahead of the protests that he’d signed an executive order striking the word from the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” the state’s official name when it declared statehood in 1790.
“Though this does not correct generations of pain and violence against our Black and Indigenous residents, this Juneteenth we can take this step to build a better, brighter future together,” Elorza said in a written statement.
The reference to “Providence Plantations” is not a direct reference to slavery, but “serves as a hurtful reminder” of how the state benefited from the slave trade in its early years, City Council President Sabina Matos said in a written statement in support of the move.
Activists have renewed the push to nix the plantation reference from the state name in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May. Voters in 2010 strongly rejected a ballot referendum to shorten the state’s official name to simply “Rhode Island.”
Protesters meanwhile are planning to march to the Rhode Island Statehouse later Friday to mark Juneteenth, the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
Organizers with the Providence Youth Student Movement and other groups say the youth-led march is meant to call for “defunding” the police and investing in the black community.
The march begins at Classical High School, continues to the Providence Public Safety Complex, then the state Department of Education building, and ends at the Statehouse downtown.
Juneteenth is celebrated every June 19. It marks the date in 1865 when word of President Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation declaring all slaves free in Confederate territory finally reached African Americans in Texas.
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