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Hawaii is the only island state and the southernmost state in the United States. The state is composed of eight main islands and 124 islets, reefs, and shoals. Honolulu, is the capital and largest city of Hawaii. Hawaii was officially nicknamed The Aloha State upon becoming the 50th state of the Union on August 21, 1959. The Hawaiian Islands were originally settled by Polynesian immigrants more than 1,000 years ago but probably remained unknown beyond Polynesia until Captain James Cook reached the islands in 1778. He named them the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, John Montagu, the fourth earl of Sandwich. In 1796 King Kamehameha I united the islands into a single independent kingdom. In 1893 the Hawaiian monarch was deposed and Hawaii became successively a republic in 1894, a U.S. possession in 1898, and a U.S. territory in 1900. During the last half of the l9th century, Hawaii developed a plantation economy based on the cultivation of sugar and, later, pineapples, for export. Thousands of immigrants, mostly from Asia, came to work on the plantations. The name of the state is taken from that of the island of Hawaii and is a Polynesian word of uncertain meaning. In the 19th century the name was extended to the entire archipelago.

Hawaii is the only state where all the people belong to what are, in Hawaii, minority groups. There is little racial discrimination, although it is not entirely absent. For the most part, the state's residents live in a society that represents a uniquely harmonious fusion of races, languages, religions, and cultures. Most of the residents of Hawaii do not usually call themselves Hawaiians. They tend to reserve this term for those of their fellow citizens who have Hawaiian ancestry.