Introduction

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After World War II, President Truman appointed Oren E. Long, pictured here, as territorial governor of Hawaii. With experience in the territory's public schools and Department of Public Welfare, Long was an early advocate for Hawaiian statehood. Courtesy of University of Southern California Libraries.

America's empire unraveled after World War II. The war was a devastating conflict leaving countries in ruins and millions dead. At the same time, the aftermath of World War II reignited campaigns for independence across colonies. This section follows how Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico renegotiated their relationships with the US. From the Pacific to the Caribbean, the legacies of America's empire continued to shape foreign and domestic policy and popular culture.

For Hawaii, the American flag stayed in place. In August 1959, President Eisenhower officially declared Hawaii the fiftieth state. This followed months of debate both on the islands and in the mainland. To determine its fate, the Hawaiian government polled residents in 1950 and 1959, and they overwhelmingly approved both a state constitution and the larger statehood bill. Territorial representative John Burns embarked on an ambitious campaign through Washington DC to rally support for Hawaiian statehood. Meanwhile in Congress, the statehood bill became involved with other national issues. Southern Democrats, as an example, opposed Hawaii because they thought the admission would tip the civil rights debate against them. Nevertheless, Hawaii was added to the union and earned a star on the flag. In 1993, President Bill Clinton issued an official apology for the US's involvement in overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy.