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The Annexation of Hawaii DBQ

100 min
  • Students will examine how and why makers of foreign policy looked outside the United States to gain greater influence and control over markets and natural resources.
  • Students will contextualize the annexation of Hawaii.
  • Students will compare the annexation of Hawaii with previous territorial acquisitions in United States history.

Handout A: Student Document Packet

  • Document 1: Fredrick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, 1893
  • Document 2: Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future, 1897
  • Document 3: Map of U.S. Imperial Acquisitions 1865–1900
  • Document 4: 1887 “Bayonet” Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii
  • Document 5: President Grover Cleveland, Message about Hawaii, December 18, 1893
  • Document 6: Petition against the annexation of Hawaii, 1897
  • Document 7: Newlands Resolution, July 7, 1898

Students can work individually or in pairs to examine the documents.

Ask students to describe the United States in the year 1890 to contextualize the period of the Hawaiian annexation. Students should recall that this was a period of great migration both within and to the United States, corruption in Gilded Age politics and business, rapid changes in the way people lived (urbanization) and worked (industrialization), and so forth.

Instruct students to read documents 1–7 and answer the questions. This can be done as best fits your teaching situation (individually, in pairs/small groups, jigsaw). They should be reading critically, focusing on the objectives of the lesson and how the documents address these issues.

Students will write a comparative essay addressing the following prompt:

Compare and contrast the annexation of Hawaii with one of the following territorial acquisitions:

  • the annexation of Texas
  • the acquisition of the Philippines

Collect and assess student responses using the AP rubric for the LEQ.

Extension: The following essential questions could be used in classroom discussion or as prompts for an essay.

(a) Should the United States have acquired possessions overseas?

(b) Was American overseas expansion justified?

(c) How was manifest destiny related to the U.S. mission to spread freedom and democracy around the globe?

(d) To what extent did overseas expansion coincide or contradict the Founding ideas and principles?