Which of our nation’s 50 states is the only one that was once a kingdom?
Aloha, Hawaii! Consider using primary sources to help your students learn more about this fascinating state and its diverse populations in celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month this May.
In 1853, King Kamehameha III headed the constitutional monarchy of the Hawaiian Islands and indigenous Hawaiians comprised 97 percent of the population. By 1923, their numbers had dropped to 16 percent, and the largest percentage of the population was Japanese in what was by then the U.S. territory of Hawaii. How could so much have changed in a span of 70 years?
Beginning in the mid-1800s, Hawaii became a major destination for many Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Korean immigrants. Often recruited by powerful U.S.-based agricultural businesses, these immigrants permanently changed the makeup of Hawaii. Overthrown by the U.S. government on January 17, 1893, the former Kingdom of Hawaii officially became a U.S. territory in 1900 and the 50th state in 1959.
How familiar are your students with the culture and heritage of Hawaiians and other native Pacific Islanders? What do they know about the contributions and experiences of Asian immigrants to Hawaii and the contiguous United States? How might students use primary sources to learn more about these and other topics relating to Asian-Pacific American heritage?
Teachers can have students:
- (Beginner level) Look closely at the photograph, Kamehameha the Great. Ask guiding questions, including, “What do you see?” What do you think you know?” and “What do you want to find out?” before sharing the item record’s information. Read aloud or assign students to read stories about King Kamehameha I.
- (Intermediate level) Compare and contrast this image of a Chinese American baseball team from Hawaii with an image of Columbia University’s baseball team. Guide students as they observe any similarities and differences, and encourage related inferences and questions. Afterwards, distribute copies of the item records along with a historic newspaper account of the game these two teams played in 1914. How might the article’s descriptions of the two teams and their efforts reflect common racial stereotypes and biases of this era?
- (Advanced level) Read selected excerpts from the text of the Joint Resolution to Acknowledge the 100th Anniversary of the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, which became Public Law No: 103-150 on November 23, 1993. How does this document support or counter students’ understanding of American history? Challenge students to browse a report issued in July 1893 to investigate the events leading up to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarch. How might this document have helped to inform Congress one hundred years later?
For more information:
To access a set of primary sources relating to Hawaii, visit Primary Sources by State.
For links to a variety of resources that document the history and achievements of Asian-Pacific Americans, visit the Asian-Pacific American Themed Resources page from the Library of Congress, or the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month portal from the Library and other federal cultural institutions.
What teaching activities do you use to engage students during Asian-Pacific American Heritage month?