University of Hawai'i at Manoa

CPS Filipino Centennial Lecture Series

Demonized to Death:
Filipino Men and Capital Punishment in Territorial Hawai‘i

By Jonathan Y. Okamura

About the Lecture:

This presentation is concerned with the social and political causes and consequences of the execution of Filipino men during the Territorial period in Hawai‘i from 1898 until capital punishment was abolished in 1957. During this period the 24 Filipinos hanged at O‘ahu Prison constituted a majority of the 46 persons executed, although Filipinos were never more than 17 percent of Hawaii’s population (1930). The murder trials and hangings of these Filipinos were highly publicized, if not sensationalized, events in the Honolulu daily newspapers, and this media publicity contributed substantially to the extreme racist representation of Filipino men as sexually deviant, prone to violence, emotionally volatile, and criminally inclined during the 1920s through the 1950s. These prevalent stereotypes in turn very likely contributed to the high rate of conviction and sentencing to death of Filipinos as a means of ridding society of an unwanted and seemingly dangerous presence. The paper also will argue that contemporary racist representations of Filipino young men as sexual predators and violent gang members can be traced to their demonization during the Territorial period.

[Jonathan Y. Okamura is Associate Professor at the Ethnic Studies Department of the University of Hawaii at Manoa]

The CPS Filipino Centennial Lecture Series is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit the Center for Philippine Studies website at or call Clem Montero at 956-6086 or email

Venue & Date: Center for Korean Studies Auditorium, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Nov. 3, 2005, CKS, 12:00-2:00pm.

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