Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
History and American Studies
Department Chair or Program Director
Major or Concentration
A highly complex racial debate preceded the 1898 U.S. annexation of Hawaii, the diverse population of which served as a political tool for annexation proponents and opponents alike. Annexationists used this ethnic diversity to stress racial difference and the differing degrees of assimilability in the Island populace. Through this rhetoric, annexation proponents simultaneously emphasized a white supremacy that was expansive, indomitable, and adaptable to racial difference—convenient for their economic goal of globalized trade. Contrarily, opponents used Island diversity to highlight “inferior” races and defined the entire population by the negative stereotypes of singular racial demographics, thus homogenizing the Islands as collectively nonwhite and a threat to white America’s wellbeing. Anti-annexationists typically framed this opposition in terms of economics, climate, tradition, and disease, constructing a white supremacy that was dependent on segregating and preserving the racial homogeneity of the white populace. The ultimate results of this debate were two divergent constructions of Hawaiian demography and white identity, both politically fashioned to suit the respective party’s broader economic goals.
Hearl, Joseph, "Racial Politics and the U.S. Annexation of Hawaii" (2020). Student Research Submissions. 327.