America Adds 50th State – Hawaii
On August 21, 1959, America became the 50-state nation we know today with the addition of Hawaii.
For centuries, the islands of Hawaii were ruled separately by local chiefs. In 1782, Chief Kamehameha began a bloody war to unite the islands into one kingdom. He achieved his goal of unification in 1810 and proclaimed himself King Kamehameha I.
Hawaii adopted its first constitution in 1840 and was recognized as an independent government in 1842. King Kalakaua gave the U.S. the right to use Pearl Harbor as a naval base in 1887 in return for trading privileges. In 1891, Kalakaua died and his sister was crowned Queen Liliuokalani.
Liliuokalani attempted to establish a new constitution that would increase her power. In 1893, a group of business leaders and residents formed the Committee of Safety with the goal of overthrowing Queen Liliuokalani and annexing the islands to the United States. The following year, the queen was overthrown and the Republic of Hawaii was formed, with American lawyer Sanford B. Dole becoming president.
On August 12, 1898, the islands were officially annexed, and finally became a U.S. territory on June 14, 1900. Hawaiians became U.S. citizens, though their congressional representative could not vote, which allowed the U.S. Congress to veto any law passed by their legislature. Hawaiian attempts at statehood began as early as 1919, but repeatedly stalled.
In 1950, Hawaii adopted a constitution in preparation for statehood. Congress approved the appropriate legislation in 1959 and President Eisenhower signed the bill. When it was brought before the Hawaiian people, they voted 17 to 1 in favor of statehood. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state in the United States of America.
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