This day in History – August 21, 1959 – the American Flag gets its 50th Star

Hawaii was an unusual candidate for American statehood.  The Kingdom of Hawaii had long been under American influence (though it tried to play the Americans off against the British).  However, its economy was eventually dominated by the emigre Americans and Europeans.  In 1887 they forced King Kalākaua to accept the Bayonet Constitution – the monarchy’s powers were curtailed, property requirements were instituted for the right to vote (restricted to Hawaiian, American and European males) and Asians were stripped of the vote.  Queen Liliuokalani’s attempt to reverse this in 1893 led to her overthrow by the American business elite aided by the American minister to Hawaii.

President Cleveland refused to recognize annexation, but his successor McKinley maneuvered annexation in 1898.

For the next 60 years Hawaii would be a US Territory with appointed governors.  The final transition to statehood had to overcome the opposition of Southern segregationists appalled by the thought of a non-white Senator.  However with 93% support for statehood, the Hawaii Admission Act was enacted on March 18, 1959 leading to the admission of Hawaii as a state (and the 50th star on the American Flag) on August 21.

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