When Did Hawaii Become a State?

The state flag of Hawaii next to the flag of the United States.
The state flag of Hawaii next to the flag of the United States.

Hawaii was the 50th territory to be granted statehood in the United States of America. It was granted statehood after Alaska, which was the 49th state to be recognized. Hawaii was granted its statehood on August 21, 1959. It is the only state of the United States that is found in Oceania and is entirely composed of Islands. Furthermore, it is the only state that is located outside of North America. Hawaii is the 8th smallest state and the 11th least populated among the 50 states.

Hawaii Before Statehood

Hawaii was a territory that belonged to the United States since 1898. Before the US acquired Hawaii, it was a sovereign kingdom. It was headed by monarchs between 1810 and 1893. The monarchial form of government was overthrown in 1893 by landowners and European capitalists. Hawaii was thereafter an independent republic until August 12, 1898, when the United States took control of it. It was subsequently recognized as an official territory of the US. It remained a non-self governing territory for almost six decades before it was upgraded to a state.

What Delayed Hawaii’s Statehood?

Hawaii was considered a territory of the US and not a state for around 60 years due to several factors. Hawaii is very far and isolated from the rest of the states. It is approximately 2,000 miles away from the coastline. The proximity of Hawaii to the rest of the country contributed to the decision to consider it an independent territory and not part of the other states. Hawaii was elevated to statehood status mainly because of its role during World War II.

Why Did Hawaii Become a State?

In the first quarter of the 20th century, there were many petitions from Hawaii pushing for the federal government to grant it statehood status. These petitions were considered as void and they were therefore ignored by the federal government. In March 1959, the Hawaii Admission Act was passed by the Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower then signed it to approve Hawaii’s admission. The Act did not capture Palmyra Atoll which was part of Hawaiian territory. A referendum was held in Hawaii on June 27, 1959, in order to approve its petitions of becoming a state. Over 93% of the voters wanted Hawaii to be granted statehood. Approximately 5.7% of the voters rejected the proposal and voted for Hawaii to remain a US territory.

After the success of the referendum, Hawaii was removed from the list of non-self governing territories. It officially became a state on August 21, 1959. Hawaiians claimed it was necessary for them to be considered a state and not just a mere territory due to the loyalty it granted the United States during World War II. Hawaiians pressed for their admission to statehood status because they wanted to fully exercise their democratic rights, elect their leaders, and participate in making their own leadership decisions. They did not want to be led and controlled without their participation.


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