When Did Hawaii Become a State?

By August 28, 2019About Hawaii

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So, when did Hawaii become a state? It became the 50th state on 21 August 1959. But the story of Hawaii starts long before that time. The earliest inhabitants on the islands of Hawaii were Polynesians who settled there over a millennium ago. Captain James Cook, a British explorer, named the islands “Sandwich Islands” in 1778. He did so to honor the Earl of Sandwich, who was his sponsor. Luckily, that name didn’t become permanent. Imagine telling people you plan to go to Sandwich on holiday?

What was Hawaii’s Sovereign Status before Becoming a State

Before 1893, Hawaii had long been a sovereign constitutional monarchy. Its Kingdom status was lost in 1893 when a gang of American sugar planters and missionaries deposed the last Hawaiian Queen, Liliuokalani. Several years after the queen’s overthrow, Hawaii became a United States territory in 1898, and 61 years later it became an official state.

Why Did Hawaii Become a State?

For Hawaii to become a state, a referendum was held in 1959. 93% of the voters said yes to the proposition of making the territory a state. The people who supported the proposition wanted to have direct participation in electing their own governors and to have a complete voice in national elections and debates that impacted their lives.

Additionally, the voters also said statehood was warranted as they had showcased their loyalty to the USA fully during World War II.

But, why did it take so long for Hawaii to become a state since it became a U.S territory? During the first half of the twentieth century, there were numerous petitions for Hawaii’s statehood. However, they were either ignored or rejected. Even at the time of the islands’ annexation, some people in the United States felt that Hawaii did not have any natural connection to the rest of the country.

The island’s annexation in 1898 was mostly as a result of the power of American plantation owners on Hawaii and the protection of their monetary interests. Such interests included being exempted from import taxes for the sugar they sold to the USA and in gaining protection for their assets from possible confiscation by a revived Hawaiian monarchy.

In the United States, there was a significant sentiment that annexation would be unjust and imperialistic. The islands had more than sugar; they were a potential harbor and coaling site for naval vessels.

Nonetheless, during the annexation, Hawaii’s monarchy had only been in existence for 100 years. And it initially consolidated brutal power with the assistance of sailors from Europe and firepower. Moreover, by the end of the 19th century, a considerable number of Caucasian residents on the islands considered themselves as natives.

After the struggle of 61 years since 1898, Hawaii gained official statehood status, making it the 50th state after Alaska.