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Political changes in Hawaii


Daniel K. Inouye
Daniel K. Inouye

Efforts by some of the territory’s political leaders to gain statehood for Hawaii began as early as 1903, but Congress did not give serious consideration to the issue until the 1930s. In 1935 and 1937 congressional committees held hearings in Hawaii on the statehood question, but they did not recommend statehood. In 1940 a vote on the issue was held in Hawaii, and more than two-thirds of the electorate voted for statehood.

As a territory, Hawaii had a governor appointed by the U.S. president, but its residents could not vote in presidential elections; they paid taxes, but their elected delegate had no vote in the U.S. Congress. Opponents of statehood, including members of Southern states, had used race and national origin as an argument for years; they questioned the loyalty of foreign-born residents of Hawaii and objected to granting equal status to a predominantly nonwhite population.

Statehood efforts, suspended during World War II, were intensified after 1945. Supporters argued that Hawaii deserved full equality as a state: Hawaii’s residents had taken the first blow of the war, had endured long years of martial law, and had proven in battle the loyalty of its Japanese American citizens. Also, by 1950, 90 percent of Hawaii’s residents were U.S. citizens, most born on American soil. Hawaii’s effort to gain congressional approval for statehood eventually became linked to the similar campaign for the territory of Alaska. In 1958 a bill granting statehood to Alaska was approved, largely by means of deft political maneuvering by the advocates of Alaskan and Hawaiian statehood. In March 1959 a Hawaiian statehood bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Eisenhower. In a referendum on June 27 Hawaii’s electorate voted 17 to 1 in favor of joining the Union; most of the opposition came from white districts.

Hawaii was proclaimed the 50th state on August 21, 1959. A state constitution, which had been approved by the territory’s voters in 1950, went into effect, and newly elected officials took office. William Francis Quinn, a Republican and the last governor of the territory of Hawaii, was elected the first governor of the state. Hiram L. Fong, a Chinese American Republican, became the first person of Asian ancestry to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Daniel K. Inouye, a war hero and a Democrat, became the first person of Japanese ancestry to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. He later was elected to the U.S. Senate. "Hawaii" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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