Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Admission Act, formally United States Public Law 86-3 An Act to Provide for the Admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union, is the official document passed by the United States Congress and signed by President of the United States Dwight Eisenhower on March 18, 1959 that dissolved the Territory of Hawaii and established the State of Hawaii. Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the Union. Because the document extended all the rights afforded to American citizens to a territory that had a non-white majority, the Admission Act is considered the first civil rights legislation passed by the post-World War II Congress.
Debate and Controversy
The acceptance of statehood for Hawaii was not without its share of controversy. Various bills of admission were stalled in Congressional hearings since the early 1900s because of the racial prejudices of many members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. There was a fear of establishing a state that was governed by an ethnic minority, namely the large Asian American population. Lawmakers questioned the American patriotism of Hawaii residents. Upon the election of John A. Burns from the Hawaii Democratic Party as delegate of the Territory of Hawaii to Congress, southern leaders charged that Burns' election was evidence of Hawaii as a haven for Communism.
Burns was involved in vigorous lobbying of his colleagues persuading them that the race-based objections were unfair and charges that Communist Party sympathizers controlled Hawaii were blatant lies. Burns worked especially hard with the southerners, led by Lyndon Johnson, who blocked the various Hawaii statehood bills. Upon leaving her seat as delegate from Hawaii, Elizabeth P. Farrington said, "Of course, Lyndon Johnson was no friend of statehood." She cited Johnson's fear that Hawaii would send representatives and senators to Congress who would oppose segregation. Farrington added, "There were 22 times when he voted against us. He did everything he could, because he was representing the Southern racial opposition."
Statehood was also opposed in Hawaii by members of the Hawaii Republican Party, controlled by powerful sugrarcane plantation owners like the Big Five. Other businessmen like construction tycoon Walter F. Dillingham tried to influence Congressmen and visiting Senators that Hawaii didn't need representation in Congress. The fear of the Big Five and people like Dillingham was that the labor unions would be substantially strengthened, dimishing control over what types of benefits they would choose to give or withhold from their employees.
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