Hawaii’s Statehood

On August 21st in 1959, the modern United States receives its crowning star when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state. The President also issued orders as follows: for an American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows; for resort-wear makers to work triple shifts for 20 years; for Jack Lord to oversee the islands until death; for the Ventures to record a kick-ass theme song.

The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian archipelago, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight main islands are—in order from northwest to southeast: Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaiʻi. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the “Big Island” or “Hawaiʻi Island” to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago. The archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania.

Hawaii is one of four US states, apart from the original thirteen, along with the Vermont Republic (1791), the Republic of Texas (1845), and the California Republic (1846), that were independent nations prior to statehood. Along with Texas, Hawaii had formal, international diplomatic recognition as a nation.

The Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was sovereign from 1810 until 1893 when the monarchy was overthrown by resident American and European capitalists and landholders. Queen Liliuokalani, the rightful monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was deposed in the coup tacitly led by American sugar planters under jurist Sanford B. Dole (like the tropical fruits). With a strong assist from US Minister to Hawaii John L. Stevens, and the US Marine Corps, Liliuokalani was placed under house arrest, and genuine native efforts to restore her reign were grimly crushed.

With the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, the United States “officially” annexed the Republic of Hawaii via the Newlands Resolution. Living out the remainder of her later life as a private citizen, Liliuokalani died at her residence, Washington Place, in Honolulu on November 11, 1917.

In 1941, the Empire of Japan bombed Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor from the air, drawing the reticent US into WW2; statehood came some 14 years after the end of the war, as Hawaii had played a central, vital staging role for the war in the Pacific, inspiring Tiki devotees, nature lovers and the wake & bake crowd to this very day.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

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