Social Movements in Hawaiʻi - Ethnic Studies Resources Collection

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In Hawaiʻi, the ten years following statehood (1959) was a time of unprecedented capital investment in tourist resorts and suburban subdivisions as agribusiness phased out of Hawaiʻi. The number of hotel rooms tripled and the number of tourists increased fivefold. Rents doubled from 1960 to 1970. By 1970, 80% of the people in Hawaiʻi could not afford to purchase a house. The prosperity of this development boom was differentiated by class, race, ethnicity and gender. The 60s and 70s were also the era of the Civil Rights, Anti-Vietnam War and Student Rights movements.

Each new proposed development threatened mass evictions giving rise to social movements to protect a way of life, homes, farms and families from Kalama Valley to Hālawa Housing: Waimanalo, Ota Camp, Chinatown, Sand Island, Mokauea Island, Census Tract 57 and Waiahole-Waikane on Oʻahu; Niumalu-Nāwilwili on Kauaʻi; Kūkailimoku Village on Hawaiʻi and Makena on Maui, At the same time, Native Hawaiians rallied for meaningful reforms to the Hawaiian Homelands program and Bishop Estate-Kamehameha Schools, and sought reparations from the U.S. for its role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the Constitutional Monarchy. Advocating for Aloha ʻĀina, Native Hawaiians organized to "Stop the Bombing of Kahoʻolawe" and revived religious ceremonies on the island. This sparked a renaissance of Hawaiian language, music, hula, and healing and navigational sciences. Students demanded to have a Department of Ethnic Studies, teaching "Our History, Our Way." Filipino communities protested Martial Law in the Philippines under the U.S.-Marcos Dictatorship. Hawaiʻi activists networked with Pacific Islanders for a "Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific."

At the center of most of these movements were the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Ethnic Studies faculty and students. Without social media, they produced flyers, newsletters, reports, testimonies and attracted extensive news coverage. Ethnic Studies Professor Marion Kelly and husband John Kelly, who ran a printing press, created and collected a significant number of these publications. Here we have a record of targeted protest, strategic organizing and visionary planning.

Over the decades, the Department of Ethnic Studies archived these documents in the Ah Quon McElrath Community Room. In Summer 2021, funded by a grant from the Hawaiʻi Council for the Humanities, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and with the guidance of the UHM Hamilton Library Hawaiian Collection, these documents were digitized and can now be accessed through this digital collection.


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