• According to anti-imperialists, America’s duty was to protect democracy worldwide. In this document, Massachusetts Senator George Frisbie Hoar, offered his opinions on the Philippine-American War. "How absurd," Hoar wrote, "for the persons who could have stopped [the war], with a single word of assurance that they meant to respect the liberties of the people of the Philippine islands, to charge the men who have been constantly begging [for independence]...for the continuance of the war!" Courtesy of Harvard University via HathiTrust.

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    Our duty to the Philippines : a letter /
    • Date
    • 1900
    • Creator
    • Hoar, George Frisbie, 1826-1904.
    • Description
    • Original green printed paper wrappers. Reprinted from the "Springfield republican", January 11, 1900. Issued also under title: A question of conscience.
    • Rights
    • Public domain. Learn more at http://www.hathitrust.org/access_use
    • Partner
    • HathiTrust
    • Contributing Institution
    • Library of Congress.

  • Anti-imperialist and presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, pictured here, spoke frequently against imperialism. In a 1900 address to a Democratic Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, Bryan proclaimed: "The democratic party disputes this doctrine and denounces it as repugnant to both the letter and spirit of our organic law. There is no place in our system of government for the deposit of arbitrary and irresponsible power." Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery via the Smithsonian Institution.

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    William Jennings Bryan
    • Date
    • 1900
    • Creator
    • Strobridge Lithography Company, 1867 - 1961.
    • Description
    • Born Salem, Illinois. The contentious presidential election of 1900 reflected in this campaign poster pitted William Jennings Bryan, running as a populist and Democrat, against Republican incumbent William McKinley, who had beaten Bryan in 1896. The ... more
      Born Salem, Illinois. The contentious presidential election of 1900 reflected in this campaign poster pitted William Jennings Bryan, running as a populist and Democrat, against Republican incumbent William McKinley, who had beaten Bryan in 1896. The poster used slogans immediately recognizable to the voters. "No crown of thorns"/"no cross of gold" referred to Bryan's electrifying 1896 convention speech, which called for abolishing the gold standard and inflating the currency to relieve debtors, especially farmers. Bryan's three unsuccessful runs for the presidency (1896, 1900, and 1908)-in which he campaigned for such changes as the national regulation of corporations, tariff reductions, a national income tax, the direct election of senators, and an end to "imperialism"-were both a cause and a result of a major realignment in American politics that, with one exception, gave Republicans the presidency and national majorities until the early 1930s. less
    • Rights
    • National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
    • Partner
    • Smithsonian Institution
    • Contributing Institution
    • National Portrait Gallery

  • Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House and legendary American social worker, joined the ranks of American anti-imperialists. She is featured in this portrait. During the 1898 Chicago Liberty meeting, Addams dismissed the burden of the US empire, stating: "To 'protect the weak' has always been the excuse of the ruler and tax-gatherer, the chief, the king, the baron; and now, at last, of ‘the white man.'" Courtesy of Furman University via South Carolina Digital Library.

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    Jane Addams
    • Date
    • 1924
    • Creator
    • Moffett, Chicago (Ill.)
    • Description
    • Jane Addams was a pioneer in the field of social work, founding the most famous settlement house in American history, Hull-House in Chicago, Ill. She was an international activist for world peace and the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Pr... more
      Jane Addams was a pioneer in the field of social work, founding the most famous settlement house in American history, Hull-House in Chicago, Ill. She was an international activist for world peace and the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. less
    • Rights
    • Copyright Furman University. Materials are intended for non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, and are not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission. In compliance with fair use, whenever items are used for personal use,... more
      Copyright Furman University. Materials are intended for non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, and are not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission. In compliance with fair use, whenever items are used for personal use, research, or teaching, please credit as follows: 'Furman University, Special Collections and Archives'. less
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    • South Carolina Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Furman University

  • W. E. B. Du Bois supported anti-imperialism as an international movement against the US and all other colonial powers. In this letter, dated 1919, he confirmed his sponsorship of the League of Oppressed Peoples which fostered solidarity between those fighting against colonial rule across the world. Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries via Digital Commonwealth.

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    Letter from W. E. B. Du Bois to League of Oppressed Peoples
    • Date
    • 1919-11-08
    • Creator
    • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963
    • Description
    • Concerning Du Bois becoming a sponsor of the group, established to oppose United States imperialism.
    • Rights
    • All rights for this document are held by the David Graham Du Bois Trust. Requests to publish, redistribute, or replicate this material should be addressed to Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. ... more
      All rights for this document are held by the David Graham Du Bois Trust. Requests to publish, redistribute, or replicate this material should be addressed to Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. Contact host institution for more information. less
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    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Not all Americans were excited by the expansion of the nation's empire. Anti-imperialists protested the nation's growing interest in foreign territories. William Jennings Bryan became one of the movement's most prominent leaders and ran for president on an anti-imperialist platform in 1900. Bryan lost the election, but the anti-imperialist movement carried on. It was a broad coalition uniting citizens across race, class, gender, and political party lines. While these groups worked to a common goal—an end to aggressive American expansion—their motivations often varied.

Some anti-imperialists supported segregation in addition to self-determination. They argued that the US should remain within its borders to avoid the mixing of white and nonwhite peoples. Others perceived empire as a direct contradiction to the nation's democratic commitments. Writing on the Philippine Islands, one man commented: "If the Declaration of Independence be true…[Filipinos] are to decide for themselves...otherwise there is no freedom." African American anti-imperialists like W. E. B. Du Bois found disturbing similarities between the racist Jim Crow policies of the American South and colonial oppressions dictating the lives of native Hawaiians, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans. The anti-imperialist movement was but another front for Black activists to combat racism.