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Martin Luther King Jr.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”.

In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. King’s death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Ray, who fled the country, was arrested two months later at London Heathrow Airport. Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison for King’s murder, and died in 1998 from hepatitis while serving his sentence.

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington State was also renamed for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.


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1 Early life and education
1.1 Doctoral studies
2 Montgomery bus boycott, 1955
3 Southern Christian Leadership Conference
3.1 Albany Movement
3.2 Birmingham campaign
3.3 St. Augustine, Florida
3.4 Selma, Alabama
3.5 New York City
4 March on Washington, 1963
5 Selma voting rights movement and “Bloody Sunday”, 1965
6 Chicago open housing movement, 1966
7 Opposition to the Vietnam War
8 Poor People’s Campaign, 1968
8.1 After King’s death
9 Assassination and aftermath
9.1 Aftermath
9.2 Allegations of conspiracy
10 Legacy
10.1 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
10.2 Liturgical commemorations
10.3 UK legacy and The Martin Luther King Peace Committee
11 Ideas, influences, and political stances
11.1 Religion
11.2 Nonviolence
11.3 Politics
11.4 Compensation
11.5 Family planning
12 FBI and King’s personal life
12.1 FBI surveillance and wiretapping
12.2 NSA monitoring of King’s communications
12.3 Allegations of communism
12.4 CIA surveillance
12.5 Adultery
12.6 Police observation during the assassination
13 Awards and recognition
13.1 Five-dollar bill
14 Works

Early Life and Education


The high school that King attended was named after African-American educator Booker T. Washington.

King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. (1899–1984) and Alberta Williams King (1904–1974). King’s legal name at birth was Michael King, and his father was also born Michael King, but the elder King changed his and his son’s names following a 1934 trip to Germany to attend the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin. It was during this time he chose to be called Martin Luther King in honor of the German reformer Martin Luther. King’s parents were both African-American, and he also had Irish ancestry through his paternal great-grandfather.

King was a middle child, between an older sister, Willie Christine King, and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King. King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind. King liked singing and music. His mother was an accomplished organist and choir leader, and she took him to various churches to sing. He received attention for singing “I Want to Be More and More Like Jesus.” King later became a member of the junior choir in his church.

King said that his father regularly whipped him until he was fifteen; a neighbor reported hearing the elder King telling his son “he would make something of him even if he had to beat him to death.” King saw his father’s proud and fearless protests against segregation, such as King Sr. refusing to listen to a traffic policeman after being referred to as “boy,” or stalking out of a store with his son when being told by a shoe clerk that they would have to “move to the rear” of the store to be served.

When King was a child, he befriended a white boy whose father owned a business near his family’s home. When the boys were six, they started school: King had to attend a school for African Americans and the other boy went to one for whites (public schools were among the facilities segregated by state law). King lost his friend because the child’s father no longer wanted the boys to play together.

King suffered from depression throughout much of his life. In his adolescent years, he initially felt resentment against whites due to the “racial humiliation” that he, his family, and his neighbors often had to endure in the segregated South. At the age of 12, shortly after his maternal grandmother died, King blamed himself and jumped out of a second-story window, but survived.

King was skeptical of many of Christianity’s claims. At the age of 13, he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school. From this point, he stated, “doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly.” However, he later concluded that the Bible has “many profound truths which one cannot escape” and decided to enter the seminary.

Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. He became known for his public speaking ability and was part of the school’s debate team. King became the youngest assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station for the Atlanta Journal in 1942 when he was 13. During his junior year, he won first prize in an oratorical contest sponsored by the Negro Elks Club in Dublin, Georgia. Returning home to Atlanta by bus, he and his teacher were ordered by the driver to stand so that white passengers could sit down. King initially refused, but complied after his teacher told him that he would be breaking the law if he did not submit. King said that during this incident, he was “the angriest I have ever been in my life.” A precocious student, he skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grades of high school.

During King’s junior year in high school, Morehouse College, a respected historically black college, announced that it would accept any high school juniors who could pass its entrance exam. At that time, many students had abandoned further studies to enlist in World War II. Due to this, Morehouse was eager to fill its classrooms. At the age of 15, King passed the exam and entered Morehouse. The summer before his last year at Morehouse, in 1947, the 18-year-old King chose to enter the ministry. He had concluded that the church offered the most assuring way to answer “an inner urge to serve humanity.” King’s “inner urge” had begun developing, and he made peace with the Baptist Church, as he believed he would be a “rational” minister with sermons that were “a respectful force for ideas, even social protest.”

In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a B.A. in sociology and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a B.Div. degree in 1951. King’s father fully supported his decision to continue his education.

While attending Crozer, King was joined by Walter McCall, a former classmate at Morehouse. At Crozer, King was elected president of the student body. The African-American students of Crozer for the most part conducted their social activity on Edwards Street. King became fond of the street because a classmate had an aunt who prepared collard greens for them, which they both relished.

King once reproved another student for keeping beer in his room, saying they had shared responsibility as African Americans to bear “the burdens of the Negro race.” For a time, he was interested in Walter Rauschenbusch’s “social gospel.” In his third year at Morehouse, King became romantically involved with the white daughter of an immigrant German woman who worked as a cook in the cafeteria. The daughter had been involved with a professor prior to her relationship with King. King planned to marry her, but friends advised against it, saying that an interracial marriage would provoke animosity from both blacks and whites, potentially damaging his chances of ever pastoring a church in the South. King tearfully told a friend that he could not endure his mother’s pain over the marriage and broke the relationship off six months later. He continued to have lingering feelings toward the women he left; one friend was quoted as saying, “He never recovered.”

King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parents’ house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama; he was 24 and she was 26. They became the parents of four children: Yolanda King (b. 1955, d. 2007), Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), Dexter Scott King (b. 1961), and Bernice King (b. 1963). During their marriage, King limited Coretta’s role in the civil rights movement, expecting her to be a housewife and mother.

At age 25 in 1954, King was called as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Doctoral Studies

King began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph.D. on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman. While pursuing doctoral studies, King worked as an assistant minister at Boston’s historic Twelfth Baptist Church with Rev. William Hunter Hester. Hester was an old friend of King’s father, and was an important influence on King.

Decades later, an academic inquiry in October 1991 concluded that portions of his dissertation had been plagiarized and he had acted improperly. However, “[d]espite its finding, the committee said that ‘no thought should be given to the revocation of Dr. King’s doctoral degree,’ an action that the panel said would serve no purpose.” The committee also found that the dissertation still “makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship.” A letter is now attached to the copy of King’s dissertation held in the university library, noting that numerous passages were included without the appropriate quotations and citations of sources.

Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955


Rosa Parks with King, 1955

In March 1955, Claudette Colvin, a black fifteen-year-old schoolgirl in Montgomery, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in compliance with Jim Crow laws, which were local regulations in the Southern United States that enforced racial segregation. King was on the committee from the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case; because Colvin was pregnant and unmarried, E. D. Nixon and Clifford Durr decided to wait for a better case to pursue.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus. The Montgomery bus boycott, urged and planned by Nixon and led by King, soon followed. The boycott lasted for 385 days, and the situation became so tense that King’s house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which concluded with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. King’s role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In 1957, King, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, Joseph Lowery, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests in the service of civil rights reform. One of the group’s inspirations was the crusades of evangelist Billy Graham, who befriended King after he attended a Graham crusade in New York City in 1957. King led the SCLC until his death. The SCLC’s 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom was the first time King addressed a national audience. Other civil rights leaders involved in the SCLC with King included: James Bevel, Allen Johnson, Curtis W. Harris, Walter E. Fauntroy, C. T. Vivian, Andrew Young, The Freedom Singers, Charles Evers, Cleveland Robinson, Randolph Blackwell, Annie Bell Robinson Devine, Charles Kenzie Steele, Alfred Daniel Williams King, Benjamin Hooks, Aaron Henry and Bayard Rustin.

On September 20, 1958, while signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom in Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, King narrowly escaped death when Izola Curry, a mentally ill black woman who believed he was conspiring against her with communists, stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. After emergency surgery by Aubre de Lambert Maynard, Emil Naclerio and John W. V. Cordice, King was hospitalized for several weeks, while Curry was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. In 1959, he published a short book called The Measure of A Man, which contained his sermons “What is Man?” and “The Dimensions of a Complete Life.” The sermons argued for man’s need for God’s love and criticized the racial injustices of Western civilization.

Harry Wachtel—who joined King’s legal advisor Clarence B. Jones in defending four ministers of the SCLC in a libel suit over a newspaper advertisement (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan)—founded a tax-exempt fund to cover the expenses of the suit and to assist the nonviolent civil rights movement through a more effective means of fundraising. This organization was named the “Gandhi Society for Human Rights.” King served as honorary president for the group. Displeased with the pace of President Kennedy’s addressing the issue of segregation, King and the Gandhi Society produced a document in 1962 calling on the President to follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln and use an executive order to deliver a blow for civil rights as a kind of Second Emancipation Proclamation. Kennedy did not execute the order.


Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy with civil rights leaders, June 22, 1963

The FBI, under written directive from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, began tapping King’s telephone in the fall of 1963. Concerned that allegations of communists in the SCLC, if made public, would derail the administration’s civil rights initiatives, Kennedy warned King to discontinue these associations, and later felt compelled to issue the written directive authorizing the FBI to wiretap King and other SCLC leaders. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover feared the civil rights movement and investigated the allegations of communist infiltration. When no evidence emerged to support this, the FBI used the incidental details caught on tape over the next five years in attempts to force King out of his leadership position, in the COINTELPRO program.

King believed that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by Southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that convinced the majority of Americans that the civil rights movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.

King organized and led marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

King and the SCLC put into practice many of the principles of the Christian Left and applied the tactics of nonviolent protest with great success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the places in which protests were carried out. There were often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities, who sometimes turned violent.

Throughout his participation in the civil rights movement, King was criticized by many groups. This included opposition by more militant blacks such as Nation of Islam member Malcolm X. Stokely Carmichael was a separatist and disagreed with King’s plea for racial integration because he considered it an insult to a uniquely African-American culture. Omali Yeshitela urged Africans to remember the history of violent European colonization and how power was not secured by Europeans through integration, but by violence and force.

Albany Movement

The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia, in November 1961. In December, King and the SCLC became involved. The movement mobilized thousands of citizens for a broad-front nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. When King first visited on December 15, 1961, he “had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel.” The following day he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and he declined bail until the city made concessions. According to King, “that agreement was dishonored and violated by the city” after he left town.

King returned in July 1962, and was sentenced to forty-five days in jail or a $178 fine. He chose jail. Three days into his sentence, Police Chief Laurie Pritchett discreetly arranged for King’s fine to be paid and ordered his release. “We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stools … ejected from churches … and thrown into jail … But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail.” It was later acknowledged by the King Center that Billy Graham was the one who bailed King out of jail during this time.

After nearly a year of intense activism with few tangible results, the movement began to deteriorate. King requested a halt to all demonstrations and a “Day of Penance” to promote nonviolence and maintain the moral high ground. Divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts. Though the Albany effort proved a key lesson in tactics for King and the national civil rights movement, the national media was highly critical of King’s role in the defeat, and the SCLC’s lack of results contributed to a growing gulf between the organization and the more radical SNCC. After Albany, King sought to choose engagements for the SCLC in which he could control the circumstances, rather than entering into pre-existing situations.

Birmingham Campaign


Mug shots of King following his arrest for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham

In April 1963, the SCLC began a campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice in Birmingham, Alabama. The campaign used nonviolent but intentionally confrontational tactics, developed in part by Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker. Black people in Birmingham, organizing with the SCLC, occupied public spaces with marches and sit-ins, openly violating laws that they considered unjust.

King’s intent was to provoke mass arrests and “create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” However, the campaign’s early volunteers did not succeed in shutting down the city, or in drawing media attention to the police’s actions. Over the concerns of an uncertain King, SCLC strategist James Bevel changed the course of the campaign by recruiting children and young adults to join in the demonstrations. Newsweek called this strategy a Children’s Crusade.

During the protests, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene “Bull” Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police dogs against protesters, including children. Footage of the police response was broadcast on national television news and dominated the nation’s attention, shocking many white Americans and consolidating black Americans behind the movement. Not all of the demonstrators were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of the SCLC. In some cases, bystanders attacked the police, who responded with force. King and the SCLC were criticized for putting children in harm’s way. But the campaign was a success: Connor lost his job, the “Jim Crow” signs came down, and public places became more open to blacks. King’s reputation improved immensely.

King was arrested and jailed early in the campaign—his 13th arrest out of 29. From his cell, he composed the now-famous Letter from Birmingham Jail which responds to calls on the movement to pursue legal channels for social change. King argues that the crisis of racism is too urgent, and the current system too entrenched: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” He points out that the Boston Tea Party, a celebrated act of rebellion in the American colonies, was illegal civil disobedience, and that, conversely, “everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’.” King also expresses his frustration with white moderates and clergymen too timid to oppose an unjust system:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistic-ally believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

St. Augustine, Florida

In March 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with Robert Hayling’s then-controversial movement in St. Augustine, Florida. Hayling’s group had been affiliated with the NAACP but was forced out of the organization for advocating armed self-defense alongside nonviolent tactics. However, the pacifist SCLC accepted them. King and the SCLC worked to bring white Northern activists to St. Augustine, including a delegation of rabbis and the 72-year-old mother of the governor of Massachusetts, all of whom were arrested. During June, the movement marched nightly through the city, “often facing counter demonstrations by the Klan, and provoking violence that garnered national media attention.” Hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed. During the course of this movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Selma, Alabama

In December 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama, where the SNCC had been working on voter registration for several months. A local judge issued an injunction that barred any gathering of 3 or more people affiliated with the SNCC, SCLC, DCVL, or any of 41 named civil rights leaders. This injunction temporarily halted civil rights activity until King defied it by speaking at Brown Chapel on January 2, 1965. During the 1965 march to Montgomery, Alabama, violence by state police and others against the peaceful marchers resulted in much publicity, making Alabama’s racism visible nationwide.

New York City

On February 6, 1964, King delivered the inaugural speech of a lecture series initiated at the New School called “The American Race Crisis.” No audio record of his speech has been found, but in August 2013, almost 50 years later, the school discovered an audiotape with 15 minutes of a question-and-answer session that followed King’s address. In these remarks, King referred to a conversation he had recently had with Jawaharlal Nehru in which he compared the sad condition of many African Americans to that of India’s untouchables.

March on Washington, 1963


March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

King, representing the SCLC, was among the leaders of the “Big Six” civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were Roy Wilkins from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality.

The primary logistical and strategic organizer was King’s colleague Bayard Rustin. For King, this role was another which courted controversy, since he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of United States President John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march. Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation. However, the organizers were firm that the march would proceed. With the march going forward, the Kennedys decided it was important to work to ensure its success. President Kennedy was concerned the turnout would be less than 100,000. Therefore, he enlisted the aid of additional church leaders and the UAW union to help mobilize demonstrators for the cause.


King is most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the southern U.S. and an opportunity to place organizers’ concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation’s capital. Organizers intended to denounce the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone. As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the “Farce on Washington”, and the Nation of Islam forbade its members from attending the march.

The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public schools; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for Washington, D.C., then governed by congressional committee. Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington, D.C.’s history.

King delivered a 17-minute speech, later known as “I Have a Dream.” In the speech’s most famous passage—in which he departed from his prepared text, possibly at the prompting of Mahalia Jackson, who shouted behind him, “Tell them about the dream!”—King said:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

“I Have a Dream” came to be regarded as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory. The March, and especially King’s speech, helped put civil rights at the top of the agenda of reformers in the United States and facilitated passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The original typewritten copy of the speech, including King’s handwritten notes on it, was discovered in 1984 to be in the hands of George Raveling, the first African-American basketball coach of the University of Iowa. In 1963, Raveling, then 26, was standing near the podium, and immediately after the oration, impulsively asked King if he could have his copy of the speech. He got it.

Selma voting rights movement and “Bloody Sunday”, 1965

Acting on James Bevel’s call for a march from Selma to Montgomery, King, Bevel, and the SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, attempted to organize the march to the state’s capital. The first attempt to march on March 7, 1965, was aborted because of mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day has become known as Bloody Sunday and was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the civil rights movement. It was the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King’s nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not present.


The civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965

King met with officials in the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration on March 5 in order to request an injunction against any prosecution of the demonstrators. He did not attend the march due to church duties, but he later wrote, “If I had any idea that the state troopers would use the kind of brutality they did, I would have felt compelled to give up my church duties altogether to lead the line.” Footage of police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively and aroused national public outrage.

King next attempted to organize a march for March 9. The SCLC petitioned for an injunction in federal court against the State of Alabama; this was denied and the judge issued an order blocking the march until after a hearing. Nonetheless, King led marchers on March 9 to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, then held a short prayer session before turning the marchers around and asking them to disperse so as not to violate the court order. The unexpected ending of this second march aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement. The march finally went ahead fully on March 25, 1965. At the conclusion of the march on the steps of the state capitol, King delivered a speech that became known as “How Long, Not Long.” In it, King stated that equal rights for African Americans could not be far away, “because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Chicago Open Housing Movement, 1966


President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966

In 1966, after several successes in the south, King, Bevel, and others in the civil rights organizations tried to spread the movement to the North, with Chicago as their first destination. King and Ralph Abernathy, both from the middle class, moved into a building at 1550 S. Hamlin Avenue, in the slums of North Lawndale on Chicago’s West Side, as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.

The SCLC formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, an organization founded by Albert Raby, and the combined organizations’ efforts were fostered under the aegis of the Chicago Freedom Movement. During that spring, several white couple/black couple tests of real estate offices uncovered racial steering: discriminatory processing of housing requests by couples who were exact matches in income, background, number of children, and other attributes. Several larger marches were planned and executed: in Bogan, Belmont Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park, Marquette Park, and others.

Abernathy later wrote that the movement received a worse reception in Chicago than in the South. Marches, especially the one through Marquette Park on August 5, 1966, were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs. Rioting seemed very possible. King’s beliefs militated against his staging a violent event, and he negotiated an agreement with Mayor Richard J. Daley to cancel a march in order to avoid the violence that he feared would result. King was hit by a brick during one march but continued to lead marches in the face of personal danger.

When King and his allies returned to the South, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, in charge of their organization. Jackson continued their struggle for civil rights by organizing the Operation Breadbasket movement that targeted chain stores that did not deal fairly with blacks.

A 1967 CIA document declassified in 2017 downplayed King’s role in the “black militant situation” in Chicago, with a source stating that King “sought at least constructive, positive projects.”

Opposition to the Vietnam War

King long opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War, but at first avoided the topic in public speeches in order to avoid the interference with civil rights goals that criticism of President Johnson’s policies might have created. However, at the urging of SCLC’s former Director of Direct Action and now the head of the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, James Bevel, King eventually agreed to publicly oppose the war as opposition was growing among the American public. During an April 4, 1967, appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” He spoke strongly against the U.S.’s role in the war, arguing that the U.S. was in Vietnam “to occupy it as an American colony” and calling the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He also connected the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change:

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.”

King also opposed the Vietnam War because it took money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare at home. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti-poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He stated that North Vietnam “did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands”, and accused the U.S. of having killed a million Vietnamese, “mostly children.” King also criticized American opposition to North Vietnam’s land reforms.

King’s opposition cost him significant support among white allies, including President Johnson, Billy Graham, union leaders and powerful publishers. “The press is being stacked against me”, King said, complaining of what he described as a double standard that applauded his nonviolence at home, but deplored it when applied “toward little brown Vietnamese children.” Life magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”, and The Washington Post declared that King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”


King speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, April 27, 1967

The “Beyond Vietnam” speech reflected King’s evolving political advocacy in his later years, which paralleled the teachings of the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center, with which he was affiliated. King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation, and more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. He guarded his language in public to avoid being linked to communism by his enemies, but in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism. In a 1952 letter to Coretta Scott, he said: “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic …” In one speech, he stated that “something is wrong with capitalism” and claimed, “There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected “traditional capitalism”, he also rejected communism because of its “materialistic interpretation of history” that denied religion, its “ethical relativism”, and its “political totalitarianism.”

King also stated in “Beyond Vietnam” that “true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar … it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” King quoted a United States official who said that from Vietnam to Latin America, the country was “on the wrong side of a world revolution.” King condemned America’s “alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America”, and said that the U.S. should support “the shirtless and barefoot people” in the Third World rather than suppressing their attempts at revolution.

King’s stance on Vietnam encouraged Allard K. Lowenstein, William Sloane Coffin and Norman Thomas, with the support of anti-war Democrats, to attempt to persuade King to run against President Johnson in the 1968 United States presidential election. King contemplated but ultimately decided against the proposal on the grounds that he felt uneasy with politics and considered himself better suited for his morally unambiguous role as an activist.

On April 15, 1967, King participated in and spoke at an anti-war march from New York’s Central Park to the United Nations organized by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and initiated by its chairman, James Bevel. At the U.N. King also brought up issues of civil rights and the draft.

I have not urged a mechanical fusion of the civil rights and peace movements. There are people who have come to see the moral imperative of equality, but who cannot yet see the moral imperative of world brotherhood. I would like to see the fervor of the civil-rights movement imbued into the peace movement to instill it with greater strength. And I believe everyone has a duty to be in both the civil-rights and peace movements. But for those who presently choose but one, I would hope they will finally come to see the moral roots common to both.

Seeing an opportunity to unite civil rights activists and anti-war activists, Bevel convinced King to become even more active in the anti-war effort. Despite his growing public opposition towards the Vietnam War, King was also not fond of the hippie culture which developed from the anti-war movement. In his 1967 Massey Lecture, King stated:

The importance of the hippies is not in their unconventional behavior, but in the fact that hundreds of thousands of young people, in turning to a flight from reality, are expressing a profoundly discrediting view on the society they emerge from.

On January 13, 1968, the day after President Johnson’s State of the Union Address, King called for a large march on Washington against “one of history’s most cruel and senseless wars.”

We need to make clear in this political year, to congressmen on both sides of the aisle and to the president of the United States, that we will no longer tolerate, we will no longer vote for men who continue to see the killings of Vietnamese and Americans as the best way of advancing the goals of freedom and self-determination in Southeast Asia.

Poor People’s Campaign, 1968


A shantytown was established in Washington, D. C. to protest economic conditions as a part of the Poor People’s Campaign.

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” to address issues of economic justice. King traveled the country to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an “economic bill of rights” for poor Americans.

The campaign was preceded by King’s final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? which laid out his view of how to address social issues and poverty. King quoted from Henry George and George’s book, Progress and Poverty, particularly in support of a guaranteed basic income. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States.

King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America’s cities. He felt that Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity and generosity.” He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided “poverty funds with miserliness.” His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”, and argued that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

The Poor People’s Campaign was controversial even within the civil rights movement. Rustin resigned from the march, stating that the goals of the campaign were too broad, that its demands were unrealizable, and that he thought that these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the black.

After King’s Death

The plan to set up a shantytown in Washington, D.C., was carried out soon after the April 4 assassination. Criticism of King’s plan was subdued in the wake of his death, and the SCLC received an unprecedented wave of donations for the purpose of carrying it out. The campaign officially began in Memphis, on May 2, at the hotel where King was murdered.

Thousands of demonstrators arrived on the National Mall and established a camp they called “Resurrection City.” They stayed for six weeks.

Assassination and Aftermath


The Lorraine Motel, where King wasMartin_Luther_King_was_shot_here_Small_Web_view assassinated, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of the black sanitary public works employees, who were represented by AFSCME Local 1733. The workers had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.

On April 3, King addressed a rally and delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address at Mason Temple, the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. King’s flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. In the close of the last speech of his life, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

King was booked in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel (owned by Walter Bailey) in Memphis. Abernathy, who was present at the assassination, testified to the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations that King and his entourage stayed at Room 306 so often that it was known as the “King-Abernathy suite.” According to Jesse Jackson, who was present, King’s last words on the balcony before his assassination were spoken to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending: “Ben, make sure you play ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”

King was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968, as he stood on the motel’s second-floor balcony. The bullet entered through his right cheek, smashing his jaw, then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder. Abernathy heard the shot from inside the motel room and ran to the balcony to find King on the floor. Jackson stated after the shooting that he cradled King’s head as King lay on the balcony, but this account was disputed by other colleagues of King; Jackson later changed his statement to say that he had “reached out” for King.

After emergency chest surgery, King died at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 p.m. According to biographer Taylor Branch, King’s autopsy revealed that though only 39 years old, he “had the heart of a 60 year old”, which Branch attributed to the stress of 13 years in the civil rights movement.


The assassination led to a nationwide wave of race riots in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, and dozens of other cities. Presidential candidate Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy was on his way to Indianapolis for a campaign rally when he was informed of King’s death. He gave a short speech to the gathering of supporters informing them of the tragedy and urging them to continue King’s ideal of nonviolence. James Farmer Jr., and other civil rights leaders also called for non-violent action, while the more militant Stokely Carmichael called for a more forceful response. The city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on terms favorable to the sanitation workers.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7 a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader. Vice President Hubert Humphrey attended King’s funeral on behalf of the President, as there were fears that Johnson’s presence might incite protests and perhaps violence. At his widow’s request, King’s last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral, a recording of his “Drum Major” sermon, given on February 4, 1968. In that sermon, King made a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to “feed the hungry”, “clothe the naked”, “be right on the [Vietnam] war question”, and “love and serve humanity.”


King’s friend Mahalia Jackson (seen here in 1964) sang at his funeral.

His good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, at the funeral.

Two months after King’s death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd on his way to white-ruled Rhodesia. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969, though he recanted this confession three days later. On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray pleaded guilty to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. He was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. Ray later claimed a man he met in Montreal, Quebec, with the alias “Raoul” was involved and that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy. He spent the remainder of his life attempting, unsuccessfully, to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.

Allegations of Conspiracy

Ray’s lawyers maintained he was a scapegoat similar to the way that John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is seen by conspiracy theorists. Supporters of this assertion said that Ray’s confession was given under pressure and that he had been threatened with the death penalty. They admitted that Ray was a thief and burglar, but claimed that he had no record of committing violent crimes with a weapon. However, prison records in different U.S. cities have shown that he was incarcerated on numerous occasions for charges of armed robbery. In a 2008 interview with CNN, Jerry Ray, the younger brother of James Earl Ray, claimed that James was smart and was sometimes able to get away with armed robbery. Jerry Ray said that he had assisted his brother on one such robbery. “I never been with nobody as bold as he is,” Jerry said. “He just walked in and put that gun on somebody, it was just like it’s an everyday thing.”

Those suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point to the two successive ballistics tests which proved that a rifle similar to Ray’s Remington Gamemaster had been the murder weapon. Those tests did not implicate Ray’s specific rifle. Witnesses near King at the moment of his death said that the shot came from another location. They said that it came from behind thick shrubbery near the boarding house—which had been cut away in the days following the assassination—and not from the boarding house window. However, Ray’s fingerprints were found on various objects (a rifle, a pair of binoculars, articles of clothing, a newspaper) that were left in the bathroom where it was determined the gunfire came from. An examination of the rifle containing Ray’s fingerprints also determined that at least one shot was fired from the firearm at the time of the assassination.


Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King’s sarcophagus, located on the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia

In 1997, King’s son Dexter Scott King met with Ray, and publicly supported Ray’s efforts to obtain a new trial.

Two years later, Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, along with the rest of King’s family, won a wrongful death claim against Loyd Jowers and “other unknown co-conspirators.” Jowers claimed to have received $100,000 to arrange King’s assassination. The jury of six whites and six blacks found in favor of the King family, finding Jowers to be complicit in a conspiracy against King and that government agencies were party to the assassination. William F. Pepper represented the King family in the trial.

In 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice completed the investigation into Jowers’ claims but did not find evidence to support allegations about conspiracy. The investigation report recommended no further investigation unless some new reliable facts are presented. A sister of Jowers admitted that he had fabricated the story so he could make $300,000 from selling the story, and she in turn corroborated his story in order to get some money to pay her income tax.

In 2002, The New York Times reported that a church minister, Rev. Ronald Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson—not James Earl Ray—assassinated King. He stated, “It wasn’t a racist thing; he thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get him out of the way.” Wilson provided no evidence to back up his claims.

King researchers David Garrow and Gerald Posner disagreed with William F. Pepper’s claims that the government killed King. In 2003, Pepper published a book about the long investigation and trial, as well as his representation of James Earl Ray in his bid for a trial, laying out the evidence and criticizing other accounts. King’s friend and colleague, James Bevel, also disputed the argument that Ray acted alone, stating, “There is no way a ten-cent white boy could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man.” In 2004, Jesse Jackson stated:

The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. And within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. … I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray.



President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the guests behind him is Martin Luther King.


Martin Luther King Jr. statue over the west entrance of Westminster Abbey, installed in 1998


Protesters at the 2012 Republican National Convention display King’s words and image on a banner.

King’s main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the U.S. Just days after King’s assassination, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Title VIII of the Act, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discrimination in housing and housing-related transactions on the basis of race, religion, or national origin (later expanded to include sex, familial status, and disability). This legislation was seen as a tribute to King’s struggle in his final years to combat residential discrimination in the U.S.

Internationally, King’s legacy includes influences on the Black Consciousness Movement and civil rights movement in South Africa. King’s work was cited by and served as an inspiration for South African leader Albert Lutuli, who fought for racial justice in his country and was later awarded the Nobel Prize. The day following King’s assassination, school teacher Jane Elliott conducted her first “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise with her class of elementary school students in Riceville, Iowa. Her purpose was to help them understand King’s death as it related to racism, something they little understood as they lived in a predominantly white community. King has become a national icon in the history of American liberalism and American progressivism. King also influenced Irish politician and activist John Hume. Hume, the former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, cited King’s legacy as quintessential to the Northern Irish civil rights movement and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, calling him “one of my great heroes of the century.”

King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, followed in her husband’s footsteps and was active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006. The same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, she established the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide. Their son, Dexter King, serves as the center’s chairman. Daughter Yolanda King, who died in 2007, was a motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an organization specializing in diversity training.

Even within the King family, members disagree about his religious and political views about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. King’s widow Coretta said publicly that she believed her husband would have supported gay rights. However, his youngest child, Bernice King, has said publicly that he would have been opposed to gay marriage.

On February 4, 1968, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in speaking about how he wished to be remembered after his death, King stated:

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Beginning in 1971, cities such as St. Louis, Missouri, and states established annual holidays to honor King. At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Following President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 proclamation, the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King’s birthday. On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states. Arizona (1992), New Hampshire (1999) and Utah (2000) were the last three states to recognize the holiday. Utah previously celebrated the holiday at the same time but under the name Human Rights Day.

Liturgical Commemorations

King is remembered as a martyr by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America with an annual feast day on the anniversary of his death, April 4. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates King liturgically on the anniversary of his birth, January 15.

UK legacy and The Martin Luther King Peace Committee

In the United Kingdom, The Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee exists to honour King’s legacy, as represented by his final visit to the UK to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University in 1967. The Peace Committee operates out of the chaplaincies of the city’s two universities, Northumbria and Newcastle, both of which remain centres for the study of Martin Luther King and the US civil rights movement. Inspired by King’s vision, it undertakes a range of activities across the UK as it seeks to “build cultures of peace.”

Ideas, Influences, and Political Stances


As a Christian minister, King’s main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King’s faith was strongly based in Jesus’ commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus’ “extremist” love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated:

Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.

In his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, he stated that he just wanted to do God’s will.



King at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.


King worked alongside Quakers such as Bayard Rustin to develop non-violent tactics.

Veteran African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was King’s first regular advisor on nonviolence. King was also advised by the white activists Harris Wofford and Glenn Smiley. Rustin and Smiley came from the Christian pacifist tradition, and Wofford and Rustin both studied Gandhi’s teachings. Rustin had applied nonviolence with the Journey of Reconciliation campaign in the 1940s, and Wofford had been promoting Gandhism to Southern blacks since the early 1950s. King had initially known little about Gandhi and rarely used the term “nonviolence” during his early years of activism in the early 1950s. King initially believed in and practiced self-defense, even obtaining guns in his household as a means of defense against possible attackers. The pacifists guided King by showing him the alternative of nonviolent resistance, arguing that this would be a better means to accomplish his goals of civil rights than self-defense. King then vowed to no longer personally use arms.

In the aftermath of the boycott, King wrote Stride Toward Freedom, which included the chapter Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. King outlined his understanding of nonviolence, which seeks to win an opponent to friendship, rather than to humiliate or defeat him. The chapter draws from an address by Wofford, with Rustin and Stanley Levison also providing guidance and ghostwriting.

King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his success with nonviolent activism, and as a theology student, King described Gandhi as being one of the “individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God”. King had “for a long time … wanted to take a trip to India.” With assistance from Harris Wofford, the American Friends Service Committee, and other supporters, he was able to fund the journey in April 1959. The trip to India affected King, deepening his understanding of nonviolent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”

Bayard Rustin’s open homosexuality, support of democratic socialism, and his former ties to the Communist Party USA caused many white and African-American leaders to demand King distance himself from Rustin, which King agreed to do. However, King agreed that Rustin should be one of the main organizers of the 1963 March on Washington.

King’s admiration of Gandhi’s nonviolence did not diminish in later years. He went so far as to hold up his example when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, hailing the “successful precedent” of using nonviolence “in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire … He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury and courage.”

Gandhi seemed to have influenced him with certain moral principles, though Gandhi himself had been influenced by The Kingdom of God Is Within You, a nonviolent classic written by Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy. In turn, both Gandhi and Martin Luther King had read Tolstoy, and King, Gandhi and Tolstoy had been strongly influenced by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. King quoted Tolstoy’s War and Peace in 1959.

Another influence for King’s nonviolent method was Henry David Thoreau’s essay On Civil Disobedience, which King read in his student days. He was influenced by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system. He also was greatly influenced by the works of Protestant theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, as well as Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis. King also sometimes used the concept of “agape” (brotherly Christian love). However, after 1960, he ceased employing it in his writings.

Even after renouncing his personal use of guns, King had a complex relationship with the phenomenon of self-defense in the movement. He publicly discouraged it as a widespread practice, but acknowledged that it was sometimes necessary. Throughout his career King was frequently protected by other civil rights activists who carried arms, such as Colonel Stone Johnson, Robert Hayling, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice.


As the leader of the SCLC, King maintained a policy of not publicly endorsing a U.S. political party or candidate: “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both—not the servant or master of either.” In a 1958 interview, he expressed his view that neither party was perfect, saying, “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.” King did praise Democratic Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois as being the “greatest of all senators” because of his fierce advocacy for civil rights causes over the years.

King critiqued both parties’ performance on promoting racial equality:

Actually, the Negro has been betrayed by both the Republican and the Democratic party. The Democrats have betrayed him by capitulating to the whims and caprices of the Southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed him by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of reactionary right wing northern Republicans. And this coalition of southern Dixiecrats and right wing reactionary northern Republicans defeats every bill and every move towards liberal legislation in the area of civil rights.

Although King never publicly supported a political party or candidate for president, in a letter to a civil rights supporter in October 1956 he said that he was undecided as to whether he would vote for Adlai Stevenson or Dwight Eisenhower, but that “In the past I always voted the Democratic ticket.” In his autobiography, King says that in 1960 he privately voted for Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy: “I felt that Kennedy would make the best president. I never came out with an endorsement. My father did, but I never made one.” King adds that he likely would have made an exception to his non-endorsement policy for a second Kennedy term, saying “Had President Kennedy lived, I would probably have endorsed him in 1964.” In 1964, King urged his supporters “and all people of goodwill” to vote against Republican Senator Barry Goldwater for president, saying that his election “would be a tragedy, and certainly suicidal almost, for the nation and the world.” King supported the ideals of democratic socialism, although he was reluctant to speak directly of this support due to the anti-communist sentiment being projected throughout the United States at the time, and the association of socialism with communism. King believed that capitalism could not adequately provide the basic necessities of many American people, particularly the African-American community.


King stated that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. In an interview conducted for Playboy in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.

He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils.” He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races.”

Family Planning

On being awarded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Margaret Sanger Award on 5th May, 1966, King said:

Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us. I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes. Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain.
There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.
What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims…

FBI and King’s Personal Life


An internal memo from the FBI attempting to disrupt the Poor People’s Campaign with fraudulent claims about King—it was part of the larger COINTELPRO campaign against the anti-war and civil rights movements

FBI surveillance and wiretapping

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally ordered surveillance of King, with the intent to undermine his power as a civil rights leader. According to the Church Committee, a 1975 investigation by the U.S. Congress, “From December 1963 until his death in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was the target of an intensive campaign by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ‘neutralize’ him as an effective civil rights leader.”

The Bureau received authorization to proceed with wiretapping from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in the fall of 1963 and informed President John F. Kennedy, both of whom unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Stanley Levison, a New York lawyer who had been involved with Communist Party USA. Although Robert Kennedy only gave written approval for limited wiretapping of King’s phones “on a trial basis, for a month or so”, Hoover extended the clearance so his men were “unshackled” to look for evidence in any areas of King’s life they deemed worthy. The Bureau placed wiretaps on Levison’s and King’s home and office phones, and bugged King’s rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country. In 1967, Hoover listed the SCLC as a black nationalist hate group, with the instructions: “No opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the leaderships of the groups … to insure the targeted group is disrupted, ridiculed, or discredited.”

NSA monitoring of King’s communications

In a secret operation code-named “Minaret”, the National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the communications of leading Americans, including King, who criticized the U.S. war in Vietnam. A review by the NSA itself concluded that Minaret was “disreputable if not outright illegal.”

Allegations of communism

]For years, Hoover had been suspicious about potential influence of communists in social movements such as labor unions and civil rights. Hoover directed the FBI to track King in 1957, and the SCLC as it was established (it did not have a full-time executive director until 1960). The investigations were largely superficial until 1962, when the FBI learned that one of King’s most trusted advisers was New York City lawyer Stanley Levison.

The FBI feared Levison was working as an “agent of influence” over King, in spite of its own reports in 1963 that Levison had left the Party and was no longer associated in business dealings with them. Another King lieutenant, Hunter Pitts O’Dell, was also linked to the Communist Party by sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). However, by 1976 the FBI had acknowledged that it had not obtained any evidence that King himself or the SCLC were actually involved with any communist organizations.

For his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to communism, stating in a 1965 Playboy interview that “there are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida.” He argued that Hoover was “following the path of appeasement of political powers in the South” and that his concern for communist infiltration of the civil rights movement was meant to “aid and abet the salacious claims of southern racists and the extreme right-wing elements.” Hoover did not believe King’s pledge of innocence and replied by saying that King was “the most notorious liar in the country.” After King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, the FBI described King as “the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.” It alleged that he was “knowingly, willingly and regularly cooperating with and taking guidance from communists.”

The attempt to prove that King was a communist was related to the feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their lot but had been stirred up by “communists” and “outside agitators.” However, the 1950s and ’60s civil rights movement arose from activism within the black community dating back to before World War I. King said that “the Negro revolution is a genuine revolution, born from the same womb that produces all massive social upheavals—the womb of intolerable conditions and unendurable situations.”

CIA surveillance

CIA files declassified in 2017 revealed that the agency was investigating possible links between King and Communism after a Washington Post article dated November 4, 1964 claimed he was invited to the Soviet Union and that Ralph Abernathy, spokesman for subject, refused to comment on the source of the invitation.



King and Malcolm X, March 26, 1964

Having concluded that King was dangerous due to communist infiltration, the FBI shifted to attempting to discredit King through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. Lyndon Johnson once said that King was a “hypocritical preacher.”

Ralph Abernathy stated in his 1989 autobiography And the Walls Came Tumbling Down that King had a “weakness for women”, although they “all understood and believed in the biblical prohibition against sex outside of marriage. It was just that he had a particularly difficult time with that temptation.” In a later interview, Abernathy said that he only wrote the term “womanizing”, that he did not specifically say King had extramarital sex and that the infidelities King had were emotional rather than sexual. Abernathy criticized the media for sensationalizing the statements he wrote about King’s affairs, such as the allegation that he admitted in his book that King had a sexual affair the night before he was assassinated. In his original wording, Abernathy had claimed he saw King coming out of his room with a lady when he awoke the next morning and later claimed that “he may have been in there discussing and debating and trying to get her to go along with the movement, I don’t know.”

In his 1986 book Bearing the Cross, David Garrow wrote about a number of extramarital affairs, including one woman King saw almost daily. According to Garrow, “that relationship … increasingly became the emotional centerpiece of King’s life, but it did not eliminate the incidental couplings … of King’s travels.” He alleged that King explained his extramarital affairs as “a form of anxiety reduction.” Garrow asserted that King’s supposed promiscuity caused him “painful and at times overwhelming guilt.” King’s wife Coretta appeared to have accepted his affairs with equanimity, saying once that “all that other business just doesn’t have a place in the very high level relationship we enjoyed.” Shortly after Bearing the Cross was released, civil rights author Howell Raines gave the book a positive review but opined that Garrow’s allegations about King’s sex life were “sensational” and stated that Garrow was “amassing facts rather than analyzing them.”

The FBI distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King’s family. The bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he did not cease his civil rights work. The FBI–King suicide letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize read, in part:


The FBI–King suicide letter,] mailed anonymously by the FBI

The American public, the church organizations that have been helping—Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are—an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant ). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

A tape recording of several of King’s extramarital liaisons, excerpted from FBI wiretaps, accompanied the letter. King interpreted this package as an attempt to drive him to suicide, although William Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division at the time, argued that it may have only been intended to “convince Dr. King to resign from the SCLC.” King refused to give in to the FBI’s threats.

In 1977, Judge John Lewis Smith Jr. ordered all known copies of the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI’s electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 to be held in the National Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.

Police observation during the assassination

A fire station was located across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the boarding house in which James Earl Ray was staying. Police officers were stationed in the fire station to keep King under surveillance. Agents were watching King at the time he was shot. Immediately following the shooting, officers rushed out of the station to the motel. Marrell McCollough, an undercover police officer, was the first person to administer first aid to King. The antagonism between King and the FBI, the lack of an all points bulletin to find the killer, and the police presence nearby led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.

Awards and Recognition


King showing his medallion, which he received from Mayor Wagner


Statue of King in Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park


Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King ministered, was renamed Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in 1978.

King was awarded at least fifty honorary degrees from colleges and universities. On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in the U.S. In 1965, he was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his “exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty.” In his acceptance remarks, King said, “Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free.”

In 1957, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. Two years later, he won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for “his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity.” Also in 1966, King was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In November 1967 he made a 24-hour trip to the United Kingdom to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University, being the first African-American to be so honoured by Newcastle. In a moving impromptu acceptance speech, he said

There are three urgent and indeed great problems that we face not only in the United States of America but all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war.

In 1971 he was posthumously awarded a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for his Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.

In 1977, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was posthumously awarded to King by President Jimmy Carter. The citation read:

Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet.

King and his wife were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

King was second in Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. In 1963, he was named Time Person of the Year, and in 2000, he was voted sixth in an online “Person of the Century” poll by the same magazine. King placed third in the Greatest American contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.

Five-dollar Bill

On April 20, 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that the $5, $10, and $20 bills would all undergo redesign prior to 2020. Lew said that while Lincoln would remain on the obverse of the $5 bill, the reverse would be redesigned to depict various historical events that had occurred at the Lincoln Memorial. Among the planned designs are images from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 1939 concert by opera singer Marian Anderson.


  • Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958) ISBN 978-0-06-250490-6
  • The Measure of a Man (1959) ISBN 978-0-8006-0877-4
  • Strength to Love (1963) ISBN 978-0-8006-9740-2
  • Why We Can’t Wait (1964) ISBN 978-0-8070-0112-7
  • Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967) ISBN 978-0-8070-0571-2
  • The Trumpet of Conscience (1968) ISBN 978-0-8070-0170-7
  • A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (1986) ISBN 978-0-06-250931-4
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. (1998), ed. Clayborne Carson ISBN 978-0-446-67650-2
  • “All Labor Has Dignity” (2011) ed. Michael Honey ISBN 978-0-8070-8600-1
  • “Thou, Dear God”: Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits Collection of King’s prayers. (2011), ed. Lewis Baldwin ISBN 978-0-8070-8603-2
  • MLK: A Celebration in Word and Image Photographed by Bob Adelman, introduced by Charles Johnson ISBN 978-0-8070-0316-9

Amerika Serikat

Dari Wikipedia bahasa Indonesia, ensiklopedia bebas

Opera Snapshot_2017-12-11_003108_www.google.com

Amerika Serikat, disingkat dengan AS (bahasa Inggris: United States of America/U.S.A. disingkat United States/US), atau secara umum dikenal dengan Amerika saja, adalah sebuah negara republik konstitusional federal yang terdiri dari lima puluh negara bagian dan sebuah distrik federal. Negara ini terletak di bagian tengah Amerika Utara, yang menjadi lokasi dari empat puluh delapan negara bagian yang saling bersebelahan, beserta distrik ibu kota Washington, D.C.. Amerika Serikat diapit oleh Samudra Pasifik dan Atlantik di sebelah barat dan timur, berbatasan dengan Kanada di sebelah utara, dan Meksiko di sebelah selatan. Dua negara bagian lainnya, yaitu Alaska dan Hawaii, terletak terpisah dari dataran utama Amerika Serikat. Negara bagian Alaska terletak di sebelah ujung barat laut Amerika Utara, berbatasan dengan Kanada di sebelah timur dan Rusia di sebelah barat, yang dipisahkan oleh Selat Bering. Sedangkan negara bagian Hawaii adalah sebuah kepulauan yang berlokasi di Samudra Pasifik. Amerika Serikat juga memiliki beberapa teritori di Pasifik dan Karibia. Dengan luas wilayah 3,79 juta mil persegi (9,83 juta km2) dan jumlah penduduk sebanyak 315 juta jiwa, Amerika Serikat merupakan negara terluas ketiga atau keempat di dunia, dan terbesar ketiga menurut jumlah penduduk. Amerika Serikat adalah salah satu negara yang paling multietnik dan paling multikultural di dunia. Hal tersebut muncul akibat adanya imigrasi besar-besaran dari berbagai penjuru dunia. Iklim dan geografi Amerika Serikat juga sangat beragam dan negara ini menjadi tempat tinggal bagi beragam spesies.

Bangsa Indian mulai bermigrasi dari Asia ke dataran yang saat ini menjadi Amerika Serikat sekitar 15.000 tahun yang lalu. Setelah tahun 1500 M, kedatangan bangsa Eropa dan wabah penyakit secara perlahan-lahan mulai mengurangi jumlah populasi mereka. Migrasi dan Kolonisasi Eropa dimulai sekitar tahun 1600, terutama dari Inggris. Amerika Serikat terbentuk dari Tiga Belas Koloni Inggris yang membentang di sepanjang pesisir Atlantik, yang mengembangkan sistem ekonomi dan sistem politik demokratis tersendiri yang terpisah dari Inggris. Perselisihan antara Inggris dan para kolonis Amerika menyebabkan pecahnya Revolusi Amerika. Pada tanggal 4 Juli 1776, dengan suara bulat, delegasi dari 13 koloni Inggris memproklamirkan kemerdekaan, yang menjadi awal berdirinya Amerika Serikat. Negara baru ini berhasil mengalahkan Inggris dalam Perang Revolusi. Perang ini merupakan perang kemerdekaan pertama yang berhasil mengalahkan imperium Eropa. Konstitusi yang berlaku saat ini pertama kali dirumuskan pada 17 September 1787; beberapa amendemen dilakukan di kemudian hari, memodifikasi pasal-pasalnya, namun tetap tidak mengubah isi teks aslinya. Sepuluh amendemen pertama yang secara kolektif dikenal dengan Bill of Rights, disahkan pada tahun 1791 dan mengatur mengenai jaminan hak-hak sipil dasar dan kebebasan.

Didorong oleh doktrin “Manifest Destiny”, di sepanjang abad ke-19, Amerika Serikat memulai ekspansi besar-besaran ke wilayah Amerika Utara lainnya, menyingkirkan penduduk asli, menduduki serta membeli teritori-teritori baru, dan secara bertahap menjadikannya sebagai negara bagian yang baru. Perang Saudara yang meletus pada 1861 – 1865 mengakhiri perbudakan di Amerika Serikat. Pada akhir abad ke-19, perekonomian nasional Amerika Serikat merupakan perekonomian termaju di dunia. Kemenangannya dalam Perang Spanyol-Amerika dan Perang Dunia I semakin mempertegas status Amerika Serikat sebagai kekuatan militer dunia. Setelah Perang Dunia II, Amerika Serikat muncul sebagai negara adidaya baru di dunia, menjadi negara pertama yang mengembangkan senjata nuklir, dan menjadi salah satu anggota tetap Dewan Keamanan PBB. Berakhirnya Perang Dingin dan runtuhnya Uni Soviet menjadikan Amerika Serikat sebagai satu-satunya negara adidaya di dunia.

Amerika Serikat tergolong ke dalam negara maju pascaindustri, dan merupakan negara dengan perekonomian termaju di dunia, dengan perkiraan PDB 2012 sekitar $15,6 triliun – 19% dari PDB global menurut kemampuan berbelanja pada tahun 2011. PDB perkapita AS adalah yang terbesar keenam di dunia pada 2010. Majunya perekonomian Amerika Serikat didorong oleh ketersediaan sumber daya alam yang melimpah, infrastruktur yang dikembangkan dengan baik, dan produktivitas yang tinggi. Meskipun negara ini tergolong ke dalam negara pascaindustri, Amerika Serikat tetap menjadi produsen terbesar di dunia. Amerika Serikat juga menjadi negara dengan pengeluaran militer tertinggi di dunia, dan menjadi yang terdepan dalam bidang ekonomi, budaya, dan politik, serta pemimpin dalam riset ilmiah dan inovasi teknologi.

Opera Snapshot_2017-12-10_211148_id.wikipedia.org


Daftar isi
1 Etimologi
2 Sejarah
2.1 Penduduk asli Amerika dan pemukiman Eropa
2.2 Kemerdekaan dan perluasan
2.3 Perbudakan, perang saudara, dan industrialisasi
2.4 Perang Dunia I, Depresi Besar, dan Perang Dunia II
2.5 Perang Dingin dan protes politik
2.6 Era kontemporer
3 Geografi, iklim, dan ekologi
4 Demografi
4.1 Populasi
4.2 Bahasa
4.3 Agama
4.4 Struktur keluarga
5 Pembagian administratif
6 Pemerintahan dan politik
6.1 Partai dan ideologi
7 Hubungan luar negeri dan militer
8 Perekonomian
8.1 Pendapatan dan pembangunan manusia
9 Infrastruktur
9.1 Ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi
9.2 Transportasi
9.3 Energi
9.4 Pendidikan
9.5 Kesehatan
10 Kriminalitas dan penegakan hukum
11 Kebudayaan
11.1 Media populer
11.2 Sastra, filsafat, dan seni
12 Kuliner
13 Olahraga
14 Sistem pengukuran


Pada tahun 1507, kartografer Jerman Martin Waldseemüller membuat sebuah peta dunia yang di dalamnya terdapat kata “America” untuk merujuk pada benua bagian barat. Penamaan ini dinamakan berdasarkan seorang penjelajah dan kartografer Italia bernama Amerigo Vespucci.

Dokumentasi pertama yang terkait dengan penggunaan frasa “United States of America” terdapat dalam sebuah esai anonim yang diterbitkan dalam surat kabar Virginia Gazette di Williamsburg, Virginia pada 6 April 1776. Pada bulan Juni 1776, Thomas Jefferson menggunakan frasa “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” dengan huruf-huruf kapital dalam baris judul rancangan Deklarasi Kemerdekaan. Namun, dalam versi akhir Deklarasi Kemerdekaan, judul tersebut diganti menjadi “united States of America”. Pada 1977, Pasal Konfederasi secara resmi menyatakan: “Nama dari Konfederasi ini haruslah ‘The United States of America'”.

Bentuk pendek “United States” (Negara-Negara Serikat) juga kerap digunakan sebagai bentuk standar negara ini. Bentuk umum lainnya adalah “U.S.”, “USA”, dan “America”. Sebutan sehari-seharinya adalah “U.S. of A.”, dan secara internasional kadang hanya disebut dengan “the States”. “Columbia”, kata yang populer dalam puisi dan lagu-lagu pada akhir 1700-an, pertama kali dikemukakan oleh Christopher Columbus; kata ini menjadi dasar penamaan “Distrik Columbia”.

Sebutan standar untuk merujuk pada warga negara Amerika Serikat adalah “American”. “United States”, “American” dan “U.S.” juga digunakan untuk merujuk pada hal-hal yang berhubungan dengan Amerika Serikat. Dalam bahasa Inggris sendiri, istilah “American” jarang digunakan untuk merujuk pada subjek yang tidak terkait dengan Amerika Serikat. Meskipun pada kenyataannya Amerika adalah sebuah benua dan terdapat banyak negara lainnya di benua tersebut, istilah “Amerika” ini secara umum digunakan hanya untuk merujuk pada hal-hal yang terkait dengan Amerika Serikat.

Frasa “United States” pada awalnya difungsikan sebagai bentuk jamak untuk mendeskripsikan mengenai kumpulan negara-negara merdeka, misalnya dalam Amendemen Ketigabelas Konstitusi Amerika Serikat, yang disahkan pada tahun 1865, tertulis: “the United States are…”. Frasa ini kemudian secara umum difungsikan sebagai bentuk tunggal; misalnya, setelah berakhirnya Perang Saudara, dinyatakan: “the United States is…”. Bentuk tunggal ini lalu digunakan sebagai standar sampai sekarang, namun bentuk jamaknya masih tetap dipertahankan dalam idiom “these United States”. Perbedaan ini dianggap bukanlah sebagai kesalahan penggunaan kata, namun untuk mencerminkan perbedaan antara kumpulan negara-negara bagian (states) dan sebuah negara berdaulat (country).

Dalam bahasa non-Inggris, penamaan negara ini sering diterjemahkan dari frasa “United States” maupun dari “United States of America”, dan secara umum juga dikenal dengan “America”. Selain itu, inisial/penyingkatan terkadang juga digunakan. Misalnya, dalam bahasa Spanyol, sebutan umum untuk “United States” adalah “Estados Unidos”, berasal dari kata “states” dan “united”, dan disingkat dengan “EE.UU.”; huruf-huruf ganda menandakan bahwa kata ini digunakan sebagai bentuk jamak di Spanyol. Dalam bahasa Indonesia, nama yang digunakan adalah Amerika Serikat, berasal dari frasa “United States of America”, dengan bentuk singkat AS, dan umumnya juga disebut dengan “Amerika” saja.


Penduduk asli Amerika dan pemukiman Eropa

Penduduk asli di dataran Amerika bermigrasi dari Asia, yang dimulai sekitar 40.000 hingga 12.000 tahun yang lalu. Beberapa di antaranya, seperti kebudayaan Mississippi pra-Columbia, telah mengembangkan teknik pertanian yang maju, arsitektur megah, dan masyarakat setingkat negara. Setelah penjelajah Eropa dan para pedagang melakukan kontak pertama dengan para penduduk asli, jutaan dari mereka tewas karena wabah penyakit yang ditularkan oleh para pendatang Eropa, misalnya cacar.


Plymouth, New England, 1620. Mayflower Compact dibuat oleh pemukim Inggris untuk memperkenalkan bentuk pemerintahan demokrasi ke Dunia Baru.


Columbia dulunya adalah simbol Amerika Serikat, kemudian digantikan oleh Patung Liberty setelah tahun 1920.

Penjelajah Spanyol pertama kali mendarat di “La Florida” pada tahun 1513. Spanyol mendirikan permukiman di California dan New Mexico, yang kemudian bergabung dengan Tiga Belas Koloni. Terdapat juga beberapa permukiman Perancis di sepanjang Sungai Mississippi.

Permukiman Inggris yang didirikan di sepanjang pesisir Atlantik adalah faktor awal yang paling penting dalam pembentukan Amerika Serikat. Koloni Virginia didirikan pada tahun 1607 dan Koloni Plymouth pada 1620. Sekitar 100.000 Puritan bermigrasi ke New England, terutama ke Koloni Massachusetts Bay. Pada awal 1614, Belanda menduduki wilayah yang kelak akan membentuk New York; koloni tersebut mereka namakan Nieuw Nederland, dan koloni ini diambil alih oleh Inggris pada tahun 1674, namun pengaruh Belanda yang kuat tetap bertahan di bagian utara New York City, Hudson Valley, selama bergenerasi-generasi lamanya. Para imigran baru dari Afrika diperbudak selama kolonisasi ini. Pada pergantian abad ke-18, para imigran dari Afrika telah menjadi sasaran utama perbudakan di berbagai koloni.

Setelah dimekarkannya Carolina pada 1729 dan dikuasainya Georgia pada 1732, Tiga Belas Koloni Inggris yang kelak akan menjadi Amerika Serikat sudah terbentuk. Koloni-koloni ini memiliki pemerintahan daerah tersendiri, namun tetap diwajibkan untuk tunduk dan mengabdi kepada tanah leluhur mereka, yaitu Inggris. Semua koloni melegalkan perdagangan budak Afrika. Dengan angka kelahiran yang tinggi dan angka kematian yang rendah serta imigrasi yang stabil, penduduk kolonial makin tumbuh pesat. Munculnya gerakan kebangkitan Kristen pada periode 1730-an dan 1740-an yang dikenal dengan Gerakan Kebangunan Rohani memicu semangat untuk memerjuangkan kebebasan beragama.

Dalam Perang Perancis-Indian, pasukan Inggris berhasil merebut Kanada dari Perancis, namun koloni di Kanada ini terpisah secara politik dari koloni-koloni di selatan. Dengan pengecualian penduduk asli Amerika yang sedang mengungsi, ketigabelas koloni Inggris memiliki populasi sekitar 2,6 juta jiwa pada tahun 1770, kira-kira sepertiga dari total populasi Inggris pada saat itu. Hampir seperlima dari total populasi di Tiga Belas Koloni yang kelak akan membentuk Amerika Serikat adalah budak kulit hitam.

Ekspansi kolonial Inggris ke arah barat ditentang oleh suku-suku asli yang sudah lebih dulu bermukim disana. Mereka berupaya mempertahankan permukiman mereka dengan berbagai cara seperti bersekutu dengan bangsa Eropa dan berperang. Di sisi lain, pemukim Inggris di Tiga Belas Koloni dijadikan subjek pajak Inggris, namun hal ini ditentang oleh para kolonis karena mereka tidak memiliki perwakilan di Parlemen Britania Raya.

Kemerdekaan dan Perluasan

Revolusi Amerika adalah perang kemerdekaan kolonial pertama yang sukses dalam melawan kekuatan Eropa. Warga Amerika telah mengembangkan sistem pemerintahan daerah yang demokratis dan ideologi “republikanisme”, menyelenggarakan pemerintahan yang bertumpu pada kehendak rakyat (bukannya raja), menentang korupsi, dan menuntut kebajikan sipil. Mereka menuntut hak-hak mereka sebagai orang Inggris dan menolak upaya Inggris untuk memungut pajak tanpa persetujuan legislatura kolonial. Inggris tetap bersikeras untuk memungut pajak dan konflik meningkat menjadi perang berskala penuh pada tahun 1775, yang dikenal dengan Perang Revolusi Amerika. Pada tanggal 14 Juni 1775, Kongres Kontinental yang bersidang di Philadelphia membentuk Tentara Kontinental yang di komandoi oleh George Washington. Kongres juga menyatakan bahwa “semua manusia diciptakan sama” dan diberkahi dengan “hak asasi tertentu”. Kongres ini lalu mengesahkan Deklarasi Kemerdekaan yang disusun oleh Thomas Jefferson pada 4 Juli 1776. Tanggal tersebut selanjutnya diperingati setiap tahunnya sebagai Hari Kemerdekaan Amerika Serikat. Pada tahun 1777, Pasal Konfederasi mengatur pembentukan sebuah pemerintahan lemah yang bertahan sampai tahun 1789.


Declaration of Independence karya John Trumbull, 1776. Dengan kehendak rakyat, Tiga Belas Koloni merdeka dari Kerajaan Inggris.


Akuisisi teritorial Amerika Serikat.

Setelah kekalahan Inggris di Yorktown oleh pasukan Amerika yang dibantu oleh Perancis, Amerika Serikat akhirnya menjadi negara merdeka. Dalam Traktat Perdamaian 1783, Inggris mengakui kedaulatan Amerika Serikat atas sebagian besar wilayah di sebelah timur Sungai Mississippi. Para nasionalis menyerukan mengenai pembentukan pemerintahan federal yang jauh lebih kuat dengan cara memungut pajak, yang menyebabkan lahirnya konvensi konstitusional pada tahun 1787. Setelah melalui debat panjang, Konstitusi Amerika Serikat akhirnya disahkan pada 1788 oleh ketigabelas negara bagian. Kongres dan Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat pertama dibentuk dan George Washington ditunjuk sebagai presiden pertama – yang mulai menjabat pada 1789. Bill of Rights, yang melarang pembatasan kebebasan pribadi dan menjamin berbagai perlindungan hukum, disahkan pada tahun 1791.

Sikap terhadap perbudakan juga berubah; semua negara bagian melarang perdagangan budak internasional, dan pemerintah federal mengkriminalisasikan kegiatan impor atau ekspor budak pada tahun 1807. Seluruh negara bagian Utara menghapuskan perbudakan antara tahun 1780 dan 1804. Sementara itu, dengan tingginya produksi kapas setelah tahun 1820, bangsa kulit putih di Selatan memutuskan bahwa perbudakan adalah hal yang positif bagi semua orang, termasuk para budak. Gerakan Kebangunan Rohani Kedua, yang dimulai pada 1800-an, menyebabkan jutaan orang memeluk agama Protestan. Di Utara, muncul beberapa gerakan reformasi sosial, termasuk abolisionisme.

Hasrat Amerika untuk memperluas wilayahnya ke arah barat memicu berkobarnya serangkaian peperangan dengan bangsa Indian. Pembelian Louisiana dari Perancis oleh Presiden Thomas Jefferson pada 1803 memperluas wilayah Amerika Serikat hampir dua kali lipat dari ukuran sebelumnya. Perang 1812 untuk menyingkirkan pengaruh Inggris semakin memperkuat nasionalisme Amerika Serikat. Serangkaian serangan militer AS ke Florida membuat Spanyol menyerahkan koloni-koloninya di Pantai Teluk kepada Amerika Serikat pada tahun 1819.

Andrew Jackson menjadi presiden pada 1829 dan memulai serangkaian reformasi yang melahirkan era demokrasi Jacksonian, yang berlangsung dari 1830 – 1850. Reformasi ini termasuk memperluas hak pilih bagi pria, dan beberapa penyesuaian dalam pelimpahan kekuasaan pada pemerintahan federal. Kebijakannya ini juga memicu terbentuknya Sistem Partai Kedua, yang mengacu pada partai-partai dominan yang sudah ada sejak 1828 sampai 1854.

Kebijakan Trail of Tears pada 1830-an adalah contoh kebijakan penyingkiran Bangsa Indian dengan cara membangun reservasi khusus untuk mereka sendiri dengan subsidi tahunan dari pemerintah. Amerika Serikat menganeksasi Republik Texas pada 1854, di tengah-tengah periode bergulirnya konsep “Manifest Destiny” (Pembuktian Takdir). Traktat Oregon pada tahun 1846 antara AS dengan Inggris menyebabkan AS menguasai wilayah yang saat ini menjadi Amerika Serikat Barat Laut. Sebagai akibat dari kemenangan AS dalam Perang Meksiko-Amerika, Meksiko menyerahkan California pada tahun 1848, penyerahan ini termasuk sebagian besar wilayah yang saat ini membentuk Amerika Serikat Barat Daya.

Demam Emas California yang berlangsung pada 1848-1849 semakin memacu migrasi bangsa Barat ke daratan Amerika. Jalur kereta api baru dibangun untuk memudahkan relokasi para pendatang. Hal ini semakin meningkatkan konflik dengan penduduk asli Amerika. Selama setengah abad, lebih dari 40 juta kerbau atau bison Amerika dibantai dan diambil kulit dan dagingnya untuk memudahkan pembangunan jalur kereta. Berkurangnya jumlah kerbau, yang menjadi makanan utama bagi suku Indian, menjadi pukulan serius bagi keberlangsungan kebudayaan pribumi di dataran Amerika.

Perbudakan, perang saudara, dan industrialisasi

Ketegangan antara budak dan negara bagian merdeka memunculkan argumen mengenai hubungan antara negara bagian dengan pemerintahan federal. Terjadi konflik kekerasan terkait dengan penyebaran perbudakan ke negara bagian yang baru. Abraham Lincoln, kandidat Partai Republik yang antiperbudakan, terpilih menjadi presiden pada tahun 1860. Sebelum ia menjabat, tujuh negara bagian budak menyatakan memisahkan diri dari Amerika Serikat dan kemudian membentuk Konfederasi Amerika.


Pertempuran Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Perang Saudara telah memicu berkembangnya industri baja dan pembangunan jalur kereta api antar-negara bagian.


Ellis Island, New York City. Imigran di Pantai Timur yang akan dipekerjakan di pabrik-pabrik, industri kereta api, dan pertambangan.

Setelah Konfederasi menyerang Fort Sumter, Perang Saudara pun dimulai dan empat negara bagian budak lainnya juga ikut bergabung dengan Konfederasi. Proklamasi Emansipasi yang dikeluarkan oleh Lincoln pada 1863 menyatakan bahwa budak di Negara Konfederasi harus dibebaskan. Setelah kemenangan Uni pada 1865, tiga amendemen terhadap Konstitusi menjamin kebebasan bagi hampir empat juta penduduk Afrika-Amerika yang telah diperbudak, menjamin kewarganegaraan mereka, dan memberi mereka hak pilih. Perang Saudara dan resolusinya menyebabkan meningkatnya kekuasaan pemerintah federal. Perang ini menjadi konflik paling mematikan yang pernah terjadi dalam sejarah Amerika Serikat, mengakibatkan kematian lebih dari 620.000 tentara.

Setelah perang, pembunuhan Abraham Lincoln menyebabkan lahirnya kebijakan Rekonstruksi yang bertujuan untuk mengintegrasikan dan membangun kembali negara-negara bagian Selatan sembari memastikan hak-hak para budak yang baru dibebaskan. Namun, sengketa atas hasil pemilu 1876 mengakhiri kebijakan Rekonstruksi ini.

Di negara bagian Utara, terjadi urbanisasi dan masuknya gelombang imigran dari Eropa Timur dan Selatan secara besar-besaran yang belum pernah terjadi sebelumnya. Hal ini turut mempercepat industrialisasi Amerika Serikat. Gelombang imigrasi, yang berlangsung sampai 1924, memasok AS dengan tenaga kerja dan perlahan-lahan mulai mengubah kebudayaan Amerika. Pembangunan infrastruktur nasional mendorong pertumbuhan ekonomi. Berakhirnya Perang Saudara mendorong munculnya permukiman yang lebih luas dan dikembangkannya American Old West. Hal ini memicu digalakkannya berbagai pembangunan sosial dan teknologi, termasuk dibangunnya Telegraf Transbenua Pertama pada tahun 1861 dan Jalur Kereta Transbenua Pertama pada 1869.

Pembelian Alaska dari Rusia pada tahun 1867 mengakhiri perluasan daratan Amerika Serikat. Pembantaian Wounded Knee pada 1890 adalah konflik bersenjata terakhir yang terjadi selama Perang Indian. Pada 1893, monarki pribumi Kerajaan Hawaii di Pasifik digulingkan dalam kudeta yang dipimpin oleh warga Amerika; Amerika Serikat kemudian mencaplok Hawaii pada tahun 1898. Kemenangannya dalam Perang Spanyol-Amerika pada tahun yang sama semakin menunjukkan statusnya bahwa Amerika Serikat adalah kekuatan dunia. Pada tahun-tahun selanjutnya, Amerika Serikat juga menduduki Puerto Riko, Guam, dan Filipina. Filipina memperoleh kemerdekaan setengah abad kemudian, sedangkan Puerto Riko dan Guam tetap menjadi teritori AS sampai saat ini.

Munculnya para industrialis terkemuka pada akhir abad ke-19 menyebabkan lahirnya Era Serikat Buruh, yaitu periode tingginya pertumbuhan ekonomi dan kemakmuran. Periode ini selanjutnya mendorong munculnya Era Progresif, yang ditandai dengan terjadinya reformasi besar-besaran dalam bidang sosial, termasuk perlindungan hukum bagi masyarakat, dan perhatian terhadap kondisi kehidupan kelas pekerja. Presiden Theodore Roosevelt merupakan salah satu pendukung utama reformasi progresif ini.

Perang Dunia I, Depresi Besar, dan Perang Dunia II

Ketika Perang Dunia I meletus pada tahun 1914, Amerika Serikat memilih untuk tetap netral. Sebagian besar warga Amerika bersimpati pada Inggris dan Perancis, meskipun juga banyak yang menentang intervensi AS. Pada tahun 1917, Amerika Serikat bergabung dengan Sekutu, dan Pasukan Ekspedisi Amerika turut membantu dalam melawan Blok Poros. Presiden Woodrow Wilson memainkan peran penting dalam Konferensi Perdamaian Paris 1919 yang membantu membangun kembali dunia pascaperang. Wilson menganjurkan agar AS bergabung dengan Liga Bangsa-Bangsa. Namun, Senat menolak menyetujui hal ini, dan AS tidak ikut meratifikasi Perjanjian Versailles, awal pembentukan Liga Bangsa-Bangsa.


‘Dust Bowl’ menyebabkan terjadinya depresi dalam bidang pertanian, memengaruhi pasar industri dan menimbulkan kelesuan ekonomi.


Keikutsertaan AS dalam PD II menyebabkan berkembangnya industri perang, mendorong migrasi ke kota-kota besar dan meningkatnya skala manufaktur secara besar-besaran.

AS menerapkan kebijakan unilateralisme dan isolasionisme. Pada tahun 1920, pemberian hak pilih bagi perempuan berhasil lolos dalam amendemen konstitusi. Era kesejahteraan diakhiri dengan Bencana Wall Street 1929 yang kemudian memicu munculnya era Depresi Besar.

Setelah terpilih sebagai presiden pada tahun 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt mengeluarkan kebijakan New Deal, yaitu serangkaian kebijakan yang memperluas campur tangan pemerintah dalam perekonomian, termasuk pembentukan sistem Jaminan Sosial. “Dust Bowl” yang terjadi pada pertengahan 1930-an melemahkan perekonomian sebagian besar masyarakat petani dan memacu gelombang baru migrasi Barat.

Amerika Serikat pada awalnya memilih untuk bersikap netral dalam Perang Dunia II. Setelah Jerman Nazi menginvasi Polandia pada 1939, AS mulai memasok senjata kepada pihak Sekutu pada bulan Maret 1941 melalui program Lend-Lease. Pada tanggal 7 Desember 1941, Kekaisaran Jepang melancarkan serangan mendadak ke Pearl Harbor, yang mendorong AS untuk terjun ke dalam kancah peperangan dan bergabung dengan pihak Sekutu dalam melawan Blok Poros. Keikutsertaan AS dalam perang mendorong terjadinya investasi modal dan berkembangnya industri perang. Di antara negara-negara peserta perang, Amerika Serikat adalah satu-satunya negara yang tidak jatuh miskin – bahkan jadi lebih kaya lagi – setelah perang berakhir.

Konferensi Sekutu di Bretton Woods dan Yalta menghasilkan sebuah kesepakatan mengenai pembentukan sistem organisasi internasional baru yang menempatkan Amerika Serikat dan Uni Soviet sebagai pusat kekuatan dunia. Setelah perayaan kemenangan di Eropa, sebuah konferensi internasional diselenggarakan di San Fransisco pada tahun 1945. Konferensi ini menghasilkan Piagam PBB, yang kemudian diefektifkan setelah perang usai. Menjelang PD II berakhir, Amerika Serikat mengembangkan senjata nuklir pertama dan menggunakannya untuk mengebom kota-kota Jepang Nagasaki dan Hiroshima pada bulan Agustus. Perang berakhir pada 2 September 1945 dengan menyerahnya Jepang.

Perang Dingin dan protes politik


Martin Luther King, Jr. menyampaikan pidato “I Have a Dream”-nya, 1963

Amerika Serikat dan Uni Soviet saling berebut kekuasaan setelah Perang Dunia II, yang diwujudkan dalam Perang Dingin. Kedua belah pihak berupaya untuk mendominasi urusan militer Eropa melalui NATO dan Pakta Warsawa. Selain itu, kedua negara ini juga terlibat dalam perang proksi dan saling mengembangkan persenjataan nuklir yang kuat. Meskipun demikian, kedua negara ini tetap berusaha untuk menghindari konflik militer secara langsung. AS seringkali menentang gerakan sayap kiri di Dunia Ketiga yang dianggapnya disponsori oleh Soviet. Tentara Amerika melawan tentara Komunis Tiongkok dan Korea Utara dalam Perang Korea (1950-1953). House Un-American Activities Committee dan CIA menyelidiki dan mengusut serangkaian investigasi subversi sayap kiri yang dicurigai, dan Senator Joseph McCarthy menjadi simbol dari sentimen antikomunis.

Pada tahun 1961, Soviet meluncurkan pesawat antariksa berawak pertama. Untuk menandinginya, Presiden John F. Kennedy memerintahkan untuk “mendaratkan manusia pertama di Bulan”, yang terwujudkan pada tahun 1969. Kennedy juga menghadapi konfrontasi nuklir dengan Soviet di Kuba. Sementara itu, pertumbuhan ekonomi Amerika Serikat terus meningkat secara berkelanjutan. Di tengah-tengah maraknya kehadiran kelompok-kelompok nasionalis kulit putih, khususnya Ku Klux Klan, perkembangan gerakan hak-hak sipil yang menggelar konfrontasi tanpa kekerasan untuk menentang segregasi dan diskriminasi ras juga meningkat. Ini dilambangkan dengan munculnya kelompok-kelompok yang dipimpin oleh kulit hitam Amerika seperti Rosa Parks dan Martin Luther King, Jr.. Di sisi lain, juga ada beberapa kelompok nasionalis kulit hitam seperti Black Panther Party dengan lingkup yang lebih militan.

Setelah pembunuhan Kennedy pada tahun 1963, Undang-Undang Hak Sipil 1964 dan Undang-Undang Hak Pilih 1965 diluluskan oleh pemerintahan Presiden Lyndon B. Johnson. Ia juga mengesahkan program Medicare dan Medicaid. Johnson dan penggantinya, Richard Nixon, semakin memperluas intervensi AS dalam perang proksi di Dunia Ketiga. Salah satunya adalah Perang Vietnam di Asia Tenggara. Perang ini tidak sukses dan menjadi kekalahan paling memalukan bagi Amerika Serikat. Gerakan kontrakultural tumbuh pesat, yang didorong oleh penentangan terhadap Perang Vietnam, nasionalisme kulit hitam, dan revolusi seksual. Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, dan yang lainnya memimpin gelombang baru feminisme yang menuntut kesetaraan politik, sosial, dan ekonomi bagi perempuan.

Sebagai akibat dari skandal Watergate, Nixon menjadi presiden AS pertama yang mengundurkan diri pada tahun 1974. Pemerintahan Jimmy Carter yang berkuasa pada akhir 1970-an dihadapkan pada peristiwa-peristiwa seperti stagflasi dan krisis sandera Iran. Terpilihnya Ronald Reagan sebagai presiden pada tahun 1980 menandai terjadinya pergeseran arah politik Amerika Serikat, yang tercermin dari perubahan besar-besaran dalam prioritas perpajakan dan pengeluaran negara. Terpilihnya Reagan sebagai presiden untuk kedua kalinya menghantarkan AS pada skandal Contra-Iran dan perbaikan hubungan dengan Soviet. Runtuhnya Soviet pada awal 1990-an mengakhiri sekaligus menobatkan AS sebagai pemenang Perang Dingin dan menjadikannya sebagai satu-satunya negara adidaya di dunia.

Era Kontemporer


Serangan 11 September 2001 terhadap World Trade Center di New York City.

Di bawah pemerintahan George H. W. Bush, Amerika Serikat memainkan peran penting dalam Perang Teluk. Ekspansi ekonomi terlama dalam sejarah modern Amerika Serikat terjadi pada masa pemerintahan Bill Clinton, dari Maret 1991 hingga Maret 2001, termasuk gelembung dot-com. Skandal seks pada 1998 menyebabkan Clinton dikecam publik, namun ia tetap menjabat sebagai presiden. Pemilu presiden 2000 menjadi salah satu pemilu terketat dalam sejarah Amerika. Pemilu ini dimenangkan oleh George W. Bush, putra dari mantan presiden George H. W. Bush.

Pada tanggal 11 September 2001, teroris al-Qaeda menabrakkan pesawat bajakan ke World Trade Center di New York City dan The Pentagon di dekat Washington, D.C., menewaskan hampir tiga ribu orang. Sebagai tanggapan, pemerintahan Bush melancarkan perang global melawan terorisme, menyerang Afganistan, menyingkirkan pemerintahan Taliban, dan memburu al-Qaeda ke kamp-kamp pelatihan. Namun Taliban terus mengobarkan perang gerilya. Pada tahun 2003, pemerintahan Bush memulai invasi untuk mengubah rezim di Irak dengan alasan yang kontroversial.

Tentara Amerika Serikat mulai menginvasi Irak pada 2003 dan berhasil mengusir Saddam Hussein. Pada tahun 2005, Badai Katrina menyebabkan kerusakan parah di sepanjang Pantai Teluk, melumpuhkan New Orleans. Pada tahun 2008, di saat AS sedang dilanda oleh resesi ekonomi global, Barack Obama terpilih sebagai presiden Afrika-Amerika pertama. Kebijakan utama Obama adalah mereformasi perawatan kesehatan dan sistem keuangan yang mulai diberlakukan dua tahun kemudian. Pada 2011, sebuah serangan oleh Navy SEAL di Pakistan berhasil menewaskan pemimpin al-Qaeda Osama bin Laden. Perang Irak secara resmi berakhir dengan ditariknya seluruh tentara AS dari Irak pada bulan Desember 2011. Pada Oktober 2012, Badai Sandy melanda AS dan menyebabkan kerusakan parah di sepanjang garis pantai Amerika Serikat Timur Laut dan Atlantik Tengah. Menjelang akhir 2012, Barack Obama terpilih kembali sebagai presiden.

Geografi, iklim, dan ekologi


Citra satelit Amerika Serikat daratan.

Luas wilayah daratan utama Amerika Serikat adalah 2.959.064 square mile (7.663.941 km2). Alaska, yang dipisahkan dari daratan utama Amerika Serikat oleh Kanada, adalah negara bagian terluas, dengan luas 663.268 square mile (1.717.856 km2). Hawaii berlokasi di tengah-tengah Samudra Pasifik, di sebelah barat daya Amerika Utara, dengan luas wilayah 10.931 square mile (28.311 km2).

Amerika Serikat adalah negara terluas ketiga atau keempat di dunia (menurut luas daratan dan perairan), di bawah Rusia dan Kanada serta satu tingkat di atas atau di bawah RRC. Pemeringkatan tersebut bervariasi, tergantung pada apakah wilayah-wilayah yang dipersengkatan oleh RRC dan India turut dihitung dan bagaimana pengukuran luas total dari Amerika Serikat sendiri: kisaran perhitungan mulai dari 3.676.486 square mile (9.522.055 km2) hingga 3.717.813 square mile (9.629.091 km2) dan 3.794.101 square mile (9.826.676 km2). Jika yang dihitung hanya luas daratan saja, maka AS menempati peringkat ketiga, di bawah Rusia dan RRC serta di atas Kanada.

Dataran di sebelah pesisir Atlantik terdiri dari hutan gugur dan perbukitan Piedmont. Pegunungan Appalachian membagi pantai timur Amerika Serikat menjadi dua bagian, yaitu kawasan Danau-Danau Besar dan padang rumput Midwest. Sungai Mississippi–Missouri, yang merupakan sistem sungai terpanjang keempat di dunia, mengalir dari utara ke selatan melalui jantung Amerika Serikat. Di sebelah barat, membentang padang rumput Great Plains yang subur dan datar, dan diujungnya terdapat dataran tinggi di sebelah tenggara.


Elang botak, burung nasional Amerika Serikat sejak 1782.

Pegunungan Rocky terletak di tepi barat Great Plains, membentang dari utara ke selatan di seluruh negara, dengan ketinggian lebih dari 14.000 kaki (4.300 m) di Colorado. Di sebelah baratnya lagi, terdapat Great Basin dan padang gurun seperti Chihuahua dan Mojave. Pegunungan Sierra Nevada dan Cascade terletak di sepanjang pesisir Pasifik, keduanya memiliki tinggi lebih dari 14.000 kaki.

Titik terendah dan tertinggi di Amerika Serikat daratan berada di negara bagian California, keduanya hanya berjarak 80 mil. Dengan ketinggian 20.320 kaki (6.194 m), Gunung McKinley di Alaska adalah puncak tertinggi di Amerika Serikat dan di Amerika Utara. Gunung api aktif umumnya terdapat di Alaska, misalnya di Kepulauan Alexander dan Aleutian. Hawaii juga memiliki banyak gunung berapi aktif. Supervulkan yang mendasari terbentuknya Taman Nasional Yellowstone adalah situs vulkanis terbesar yang terdapat di Amerika Serikat.

Dengan luasnya yang besar dan keadaan geografis yang beragam, Amerika Serikat juga memiliki berbagai tipe iklim. Di sebelah timur meridian ke-100, iklimnya berkisar antara kontinental lembap di sebelah utara hingga subtropis lembap di sebelah selatan. Ujung selatan Florida beriklim tropis, begitu juga di Hawaii. Great Plains di sebelah barat meridian ke-100 beriklim semi-kering. Sedangkan sebagian besar pegunungan di bagian Barat beriklim alpen. Di Great Basin iklimnya kering, barat daya beriklim gurun, sementara pesisir California beriklim Mediterania, dan iklim laut terdapat di Oregon, Washington, dan Alaska selatan. Sebagian besar Alaska beriklim subarktik atau kutub. Cuaca ekstrem sering terjadi di negara-negara bagian yang berbatasan dengan Teluk Meksiko yang rentan terhadap badai; sebagian besar tornado di dunia terjadi di Amerika Serikat, terutama di Tornado Alley, Midwest.

Amerika Serikat dianggap sebagai negara yang memiliki “megakeragaman” ekologi; sekitar 17.000 spesies tumbuhan berpembuluh tumbuh di daratan utama Amerika Serikat dan Alaska. Selain itu, lebih dari 1.800 tumbuhan berbunga ditemukan di Hawaii, beberapa di antaranya juga tumbuh di AS daratan. Amerika Serikat juga menjadi kediaman bagi lebih dari 400 mamalia, 750 burung, 500 reptil dan spesies amfibi. Kurang lebih 91.000 spesies serangga juga hidup di Amerika Serikat.

Undang-Undang Pelestarian Spesies 1973 disahkan untuk melindungi spesies-spesies yang habitatnya terancam dan hampir punah. Pelestarian ini dipantau oleh United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Terdapat lima puluh delapan taman nasional dan ratusan taman, hutan, dan padang gurun lainnya yang dikelola oleh pemerintah federal di Amerika Serikat. Secara keseluruhan, pemerintah pusat menguasai 28,8% dari luas keseluruhan negara. Sebagian besarnya adalah kawasan-kawasan yang dilindungi, namun beberapa di antaranya juga disewakan untuk kepentingan pengeboran minyak dan gas, pertambangan, perkayuan, atau peternakan, sedangkan 2,4% sisanya dimanfaatkan untuk kepentingan militer.




Opera Snapshot_2017-12-11_010412_id.wikipedia.org

Biro Sensus Amerika Serikat memperkirakan bahwa penduduk negara itu sekarang berjumlah 315.585.000 jiwa, termasuk 11,2 juta warga negara asing yang diperkirakan menetap secara ilegal. Populasi AS membengkak hampir empat kali lipat di sepanjang abad ke-20, dari sekitar 76 juta jiwa pada tahun 1900. Jumlah ini menjadikan AS sebagai negara dengan jumlah populasi terbanyak di dunia setelah RRC dan India. Di antara ketiga negara ini, AS adalah satu-satunya negara industri yang peningkatan besar-besaran populasinya dapat diproyeksikan.

Dengan angka kelahiran 13 per 1.000 jiwa, atau 35% di bawah rata-rata dunia, pertumbuhan populasi AS meningkat positif sebesar 0,9%, lebih tinggi jika dibandingkan dengan kebanyakan negara-negara maju lainnya. Pada tahun fiskal 2011, lebih dari satu juta imigran (kebanyakan berasal dari reunifikasi keluarga) diberikan status sebagai warga negara. Meksiko menjadi negara dengan imigran terbanyak yang memasuki AS selama lebih dari dua dekade; sejak 1998, RRC, India, dan Filipina juga menempati peringkat teratas sebagai negara pemasok imigran terbanyak ke Amerika Serikat setiap tahunnya. Sekitar sembilan juta warga Amerika Serikat mengaku sebagai lesbian, gay, biseksual, dan transgender, atau sekitar 4% dari total populasi. Sebuah survei pada tahun 2010 juga menemukan bahwa 7% pria dan 8% wanita di AS mengidentifikasi diri mereka sebagai gay, lesbian, atau biseksual.

Amerika Serikat adalah negara yang sangat multietnik; terdapat tiga puluh satu kelompok keturunan yang masing-masingnya memiliki lebih dari satu juta anggota. Kulit putih Amerika adalah kelompok ras terbesar di AS, yang paling banyak adalah Jerman-Amerika, Irlandia-Amerika, dan Inggris-Amerika. Kulit hitam Amerika adalah kelompok ras minoritas terbesar dan kelompok keturunan terbesar ketiga, dengan persentase 12,6% dari total populasi. Di bawahnya ada Asia-Amerika sebagai kelompok ras minoritas terbesar kedua, yang paling banyak adalah keturunan Tionghoa-Amerika dan Filipina-Amerika.

Pada 2010, sekitar 5,2 juta penduduk AS diperkirakan adalah Indian Amerika atau penduduk asli Alaska (2,9 juta) dan sekitar 1,2 juta jiwa adalah penduduk asli Hawaii atau pemukim Pasifik (0,5 juta). Hasil sensus juga menemukan bahwa lebih dari 19 juta jiwa penduduk berasal dari “ras lainnya” yang tidak bisa dikategorikan ke dalam “lima ras resmi pada 2010”.

Pertumbuhan populasi Amerika Hispanik dan Latin menjadi tren utama dalam demografi Amerika Serikat. Sekitar 50,5 juta warga Amerika adalah keturunan Hispanik menurut sensus 2010; 64% Hispanik Amerika adalah keturunan Meksiko. Dalam rentang tahun 2000 dan 2010, populasi Hispanik di Amerika meningkat 43%, sedangkan populasi non-Hispanik hanya meningkat sebesar 4,9%. Pertumbuhan ini terutama sekali disebabkan oleh migrasi; pada 2007, 12,6% dari populasi AS adalah kelahiran asing, 54% di antaranya lahir di Amerika Latin.

Angka kesuburan juga menjadi faktor utama yang mendorong pertumbuhan populasi di Amerika; pada 2010, rata-rata wanita Hispanik (dari ras apapun) melahirkan 2,35 anak sepanjang hidupnya, sedangkan wanita kulit hitam non-Hispanik hanya 1,97 dan kulit putih non-Hispanik hanya 1,79 (di bawah angka pergantian 2,1). Kelompok minoritas (non-Hispanik dan non-kulit putih) berjumlah sekitar 36% dari total populasi pada 2010, dan terdapat lebih dari 50% anak-anak berusia di bawah satu tahun yang diperkirakan akan membentuk kelompok mayoritas pada tahun 2042. Sedangkan menurut data sensus 2010, 54% (2.162.406 dari 3.999.386) kelahiran dalam kelompok minoritas pada 2010 berasal dari kulit putih non-Hispanik.

Sekitar 82% penduduk Amerika tinggal di kawasan perkotaan (termasuk pinggiran kota); sekitar setengahnya tinggal di kota-kota dengan populasi lebih dari 50.000 jiwa. Pada 2008, 273 tempat di AS memiliki populasi lebih dari 100.000 jiwa. Sembilan di antaranya memiliki jumlah populasi di atas 1 juta jiwa, dan terdapat empat kota global dengan populasi lebih dari dua juta jiwa, yaitu: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, dan Houston.

Terdapat lima puluh dua kawasan metropolitan di AS dengan populasi lebih dari satu juta jiwa. Dari 50 kawasan metro dengan pertumbuhan tercepat, 47 di antaranya terdapat di Barat dan Selatan. Kawasan metropolitan Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, dan Phoenix mengalami peningkatan jumlah penduduk lebih dari satu juta jiwa antara tahun 2000 dan 2008.

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Bahasa Inggris (Inggris Amerika) adalah bahasa nasional de facto. Meskipun tidak ada bahasa resmi di tingkat federal, beberapa hukum seperti hukum naturalisasi AS menstandarkan penggunaan bahasa Inggris sebagai bahasa resmi. Pada tahun 2010, sekitar 230 juta, atau 80% dari penduduk yang berusia di atas lima tahun, menuturkan bahasa Inggris sebagai bahasa utama. Bahasa Spanyol dituturkan oleh 12% penduduk, menjadi bahasa kedua yang paling banyak dituturkan dan diajarkan di Amerika Serikat. Beberapa negara bagian menggunakan bahasa Inggris sebagai bahasa resmi negara, setidaknya di 28 negara bagian. Di Hawaii, bahasa Hawaii dan Inggris adalah bahasa resmi menurut hukum negara bagian.

Karena tidak memiliki bahasa resmi, New Mexico menetapkan bahasa Spanyol dan Inggris sebagai bahasa resmi, sedangkan Louisiana memilih untuk menggunakan bahasa Perancis dan Inggris. Negara-negara bagian lainnya, seperti California, mewajibkan untuk menerbitkan dokumen-dokumen pemerintah dalam bahasa Spanyol, termasuk dokumen pengadilan. Negara-negara bagian yang sebagian besar penduduknya menuturkan bahasa non-Inggris menerbitkan dokumen-dokumen pemerintah dalam bahasa yang paling banyak dituturkan di negara bagian tersebut, yang paling umum adalah bahasa Spanyol dan Perancis.

Beberapa teritori AS masih menggunakan bahasa asli mereka sebagai bahasa resmi, bersamaan dengan bahasa Inggris; bahasa Samoa dan Chamorro digunakan di Samoa Amerika dan Guam; bahasa Carolinia dan Chamorro diakui sebagai bahasa resmi di Kepulauan Mariana Utara; sedangkan bahasa Spanyol adalah bahasa resmi di Puerto Riko dan secara umum penuturnya lebih banyak jika dibandingkan dengan penutur bahasa Inggris.



Diagram pai kelompok-kelompok keagamaan di Amerika Serikat (2007).

Secara resmi, Amerika Serikat adalah sebuah negara sekuler, Amendemen Pertama Konstitusi AS menjamin kebebasan bagi setiap aktivitas keagamaan dan melarang pembentukan pemerintahan agama. Dalam sebuah studi pada 2002, sekitar 59% warga Amerika mengaku bahwa agama “memainkan peran yang sangat penting dalam kehidupan mereka”, angka ini jauh lebih tinggi jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara kaya lainnya. Menurut sebuah survei pada 2007, sekitar 78,4% orang dewasa di AS mengaku sebagai penganut Kristen; angka ini turun dari 86,4% pada tahun 1990.

Protestan adalah denominasi yang penganutnya paling banyak di AS, sekitar 51,3%, sedangkan Katolik Roma adalah denominasi terbesar kedua, dengan jumlah penganut sekitar 23,9%. Jumlah penganut agama-agama non-Kristen pada tahun 2007 adalah sebesar 4,7%, mengalami peningkatan dari 3,3% pada tahun 1990. Agama-agama ini di antaranya Yahudi (1,7%), Buddha (0,7%), Islam (0,6%), Hindu (0,4%), dan Unitarian Universalisme (0,3%). Survei tersebut juga melaporkan bahwa sekitar 16,1% warga Amerika mengaku sebagai agnostik, ateis, atau tidak beragama; angka ini naik dari yang sebelumnya hanya 8,2% pada tahun 1990.

Terdapat juga penganut Baha’i, Wicca, Druid, Jain, agama pribumi, humanis dan komunitas deis. Keraguan mengenai keberadaan Tuhan atau Dewa semakin berkembang pesat di kalangan warga Amerika yang berusia di bawah 30 tahun. Hasil jajak pendapat menunjukkan bahwa tingkat kepercayaan warga Amerika terhadap Tuhan menurun secara bertahap, dan warga Amerika yang berusia muda juga semakin tidak religius.

Struktur Keluarga

Pada tahun 2007, 58% warga Amerika yang berusia di atas 18 tahun telah berstatus menikah, 6% telah menjadi janda, 10% bercerai, dan 25% selebihnya belum pernah menikah. Saat ini, kebanyakan wanita bekerja di luar rumah dan mayoritasnya sudah menyandang gelar sarjana.

Angka kehamilan remaja di AS adalah 79,8 per 1.000 wanita, tertinggi dibandingkan dengan negara-negara OECD lainnya. Kebijakan aborsi diserahkan kepada tiap-tiap negara bagian sampai Mahkamah Agung melegalkan praktik aborsi pada tahun 1973. Meskipun demikian, kebijakan ini masih tetap kontroversial. Opini publik umumnya terbagi selama bertahun-tahun; sebagian besar negara bagian melarang pendanaan publik untuk prosedurnya dan membatasi praktik aborsi, harus dengan persetujuan orang tua, dan mewajibkan masa tunggu aborsi. Rasio aborsi di AS adalah 241 per 1.000 kelahiran hidup, dan angka aborsinya adalah 15 per 1.000 wanita yang berusia antara 15-44 tahun, masih lebih tinggi jika dibandingkan dengan sebagian besar negara-negara Barat lainnya.

Pernikahan sesama jenis adalah isu yang sangat kontroversial di Amerika Serikat. Beberapa negara bagian mengizinkan kesatuan sipil dan “kumpul kebo” sebagai pengganti pernikahan. Namun, sejak 2003, beberapa negara bagian telah melegalkan pernikahan sesama jenis. Pemerintah federal dan mayoritas negara bagian menganggap bahwa pernikahan semestinya adalah antara seorang pria dan seorang wanita, dan/atau secara eksplisit melarang pernikahan sesama jenis. Opini publik terhadap masalah ini umumnya telah bergeser dari yang awalnya menentang pada 1990-an menjadi mayoritas mendukung.

Pembagian Administratif

Amerika Serikat adalah gabungan federasi dari lima puluh negara bagian. Ketigabelas negara bagian yang asli adalah penerus dari Tiga Belas Koloni yang dulunya memberontak melawan pemerintah Inggris. Tiga negara bagian baru kemudian dimekarkan dari negara-negara bagian yang sudah ada: Kentucky dari Virginia; Tennessee dari North Carolina; dan Maine dari Massachusetts. Sebagian besar negara-negara bagian lainnya diperoleh melalui peperangan atau pembelian oleh pemerintah AS, dengan pengecualian Vermont, Texas, dan Hawaii: ketiganya adalah republik merdeka sebelum bergabung dengan Uni. Saat pecahnya Perang Saudara Amerika, West Virginia memisahkan diri dari Virginia. Negara bagian terakhir yang bergabung dengan Amerika Serikat adalah Hawaii, yaitu pada 21 Agustus 1959. Kesemua negara bagian ini tidak memiliki hak untuk memisahkan diri secara sepihak dari perserikatan.

Hampir keseluruhan negara-negara bagian ini berlokasi di daratan utama Amerika Serikat, kecuali Alaska dan Hawaii. Dua wilayah lainnya yang dianggap sebagai bagian integral dari Amerika Serikat adalah Distrik Columbia, tempat berlokasinya distrik federal ibu kota Washington D.C.; dan Atol Palmyra, sebuah wilayah tak berpenghuni di Samudra Pasifik. Amerika Serikat juga memiliki lima wilayah seberang laut, yaitu: Puerto Riko dan Kepulauan Virgin Amerika Serikat di Karibia; serta Samoa Amerika, Guam, dan Kepulauan Mariana Utara di Samudra Pasifik. Mereka yang lahir di wilayah-wilayah ini (kecuali Samoa Amerika) memiliki kewarganegaraan AS. Penduduk yang tinggal di wilayah seberang laut AS memiliki hak dan kewajiban yang sama dengan penduduk yang tinggal di negara-negara bagian, dengan pengecualian dalam membayar pajak penghasilan federal, memilih presiden, dan hanya memiliki perwakilan tanpa hak suara dalam Kongres AS.

Amerika Serikat juga memberikan kedaulatan pribumi bagi suku-suku asli. Reservasi-reservasi penduduk asli dibangun di perbatasan negara-negara bagian, namun reservasi-reservasi tersebut tetap memiliki kedaulatan tersendiri. Meskipun Amerika Serikat mengakui kedaulatan ini, tetapi negara-negara lainnya tidak mengakuinya.

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Pemerintahan dan Politik

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Gedung Capitol, kursi dari Kongres: Senat (kiri); dan DPR (kanan).


Gedung Putih digunakan oleh Presiden.


Mahkamah Agung dan kantor bagi sembilan Hakim Agung.


Sistem politik Amerika Serikat

Amerika Serikat adalah federasi tertua di dunia yang masih tetap bertahan sampai saat ini. AS merupakan sebuah negara republik konstitusional dan demokrasi perwakilan, “dengan kekuasaan mayoritas dibatasi oleh hak-hak minoritas yang dilindungi oleh undang-undang”. Pemerintahan diatur menurut sistem pemisahan kekuasaan yang ditetapkan oleh Konstitusi Amerika Serikat – sumber hukum tertinggi negara.

Dalam sistem federal Amerika Serikat, warga negara biasanya tunduk pada tiga tingkat pemerintahan, yaitu tingkat federal, negara bagian, dan pemerintah daerah. Tugas pemerintah daerah biasanya dibagi antara pemerintah county (setingkat kabupaten) dan munisipal. Secara umum, pejabat legislatif dan eksekutif dipilih melalui pemungutan suara pluralitas oleh warga negara menurut distrik. Tidak ada perwakilan proporsional di tingkat federal, begitu juga dengan tingkat di bawahnya.

Pemerintahan federal terdiri dari tiga badan:

  • Legislatif: Kongres dwidewan, yang terdiri dari Senat dan DPR. Tugasnya adalah membuat undang-undang federal, menyatakan perang, menyetujui perjanjian-perjanjian, menyetujui anggaran, dan memiliki kekuatan untuk meminta pertanggungjawaban pemerintah, yang bisa melengserkan seseorang dari kursi pemerintahan.
  • Eksekutif: Presiden adalah panglima militer tertinggi, memiliki hak veto untuk menangguhkan atau menolak Rancangan Undang-Undang legislatif sebelum disahkan menjadi undang-undang (dengan persetujuan Kongres), menunjuk anggota kabinet (dengan persetujuan Senat) dan pejabat pemerintah lainnya untuk mengatur dan menegakkan kebijakan dan undang-undang federal.
  • Yudikatif: Mahkamah Agung dan pengadilan-pengadilan federal yang lebih rendah-format=US-1. Hakim-hakimnya ditunjuk oleh presiden dengan persetujuan Senat, bertugas menegakkan undang-undang dan mengkaji serta membatalkan hukum yang mereka anggap inkonstitusional.

Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat memiliki 435 anggota dewan yang dipilih melalui pemungutan suara, masing-masingnya mewakili distrik kongresional dengan masa jabatan dua tahun. Pembagian kursi di DPR ditentukan menurut jumlah penduduk di masing-masing negara bagian setiap sepuluh tahun sekali (sesuai dengan sensus). Misalnya, berdasarkan sensus 2000, tujuh negara bagian memiliki minimal satu wakil, sedangkan California, yang merupakan negara bagian terpadat, memilik 53 wakil di DPR.

Senat memiliki 100 anggota; masing-masing negara bagian diwakili oleh dua senator yang dipilih oleh seluruh penduduk negara bagian untuk masa jabatan enam tahun, sepertiga dari kursi Senat dipilih setiap dua tahun sekali. Presiden menjabat selama empat tahun dan dapat dipilih kembali dalam pemilihan umum tidak lebih dari dua kali. Presiden tidak dipilih melalui pemungutan suara secara langsung, namun melalui pemilihan tidak langsung oleh Lembaga Pemilihan Umum; setiap negara bagian dan Distrik Columbia akan menentukan elektor untuk memilih presiden dan wakilnya. Mahkamah Agung yang diketuai oleh Ketua Mahkamah Agung Amerika Serikat memiliki sembilan anggota Hakim Agung dengan masa jabatan seumur hidup.

Pemerintah negara bagian memiliki struktur politik yang kurang lebih sama dengan pemerintah federal. Nebraska memiliki struktur yang berbeda, dengan badan legislatif ekadewan. Gubernur (kepala eksekutif) di masing-masing negara bagian dipilih secara langsung oleh rakyat. Beberapa hakim negara bagian dan anggota kabinet ditunjuk oleh gubernur di setiap negara bagian, sedangkan yang lainnya dipilih melalui pemungutan suara.

Naskah asli Konstitusi Amerika Serikat menetapkan struktur dan tanggung jawab pemerintah federal dan hubungannya dengan masing-masing negara bagian. Pasal Satu melindungi hak “writ agung” habeas corpus, dan Pasal Tiga menjamin hak untuk memperoleh pengadilan berjuri dalam semua kasus kriminal. Amendemen Konstitusi memerlukan persetujuan setidaknya tiga perempat negara bagian. Konstitusi AS telah diamendemen sebanyak 27 kali; sepuluh amendemen pertama secara kolektif dikenal dengan Bill of Rights (Deklarasi Hak-Hak), dan Amendemen Keempatbelas melahirkan dasar-dasar utama hak-hak individu warga Amerika. Semua undang-undang dan prosedur pemerintah harus tunduk pada tinjauan yuridis. Setiap undang-undang yang melanggar Konstitusi tidak akan disahkan. Prinsip tinjauan yuridis ini memang tidak diatur secara eksplisit dalam Konstitusi, namun ditetapkan oleh Mahkamah Agung dalam Marbury v. Madison (1803).

Partai dan Ideologi


(dari kiri ke kanan) Ketua Dewan Mayoritas Eric Cantor, Ketua Dewan Minoritas Nancy Pelosi, Juru Bicara Dewan John Boehner, Presiden Barack Obama, Ketua Senat Mayoritas Harry Reid, dan Ketua Senat Minoritas Mitch McConnell di Gedung Putih pada tahun 2011.

Sepanjang sejarahnya, Amerika Serikat dikelola di bawah sistem dua partai. Untuk jabatan terpilih di sebagian besar tingkat pemerintahan, negara bagian menyelenggarakan pemilihan umum pendahuluan untuk memilih calon partai-partai utama yang akan bertanding dalam pemilihan umum. Sejak pemilu 1856, dua partai politik utama di AS adalah Partai Republik (didirikan 1824) dan Demokrat (didirikan 1854). Setelah Perang Saudara, tercatat hanya satu Partai Ketiga yang berhasil meraih suara sebesar 20%, yaitu Partai Progresif yang mengusung Theodore Roosevelt dalam pemilu 1912. Partai politik ketiga terbesar saat ini adalah Partai Libertarian.

Dalam budaya politik Amerika, Partai Republik dianggap beraliran kanan-tengah atau konservatif dan Partai Demokrat beraliran kiri-tengah atau liberal. Negara-negara bagian di Timur Laut dan Pantai Barat serta beberapa negara bagian di Danau-Danau Besar dikenal sebagai “negara bagian biru”, yang cenderung lebih liberal. Sedangkan “negara bagian merah” yang cenderung konservatif terdapat di Selatan, sebagian Great Plains, dan di Pegunungan Rocky.

Pemenang pemilu presiden 2008 dan 2012 adalah kandidat Demokrat Barack Obama. Ia adalah presiden AS ke-44, namun sebenarnya ia adalah individu ke-43 yang menjabat; Grover Cleveland menjabat dua kali secara tidak berurutan dan ia secara kronologis dihitung sebagai presiden ke-22 dan ke-24.

Dalam Kongres ke-113 Amerika Serikat, DPR dikendalikan oleh Partai Republik, sedangkan Partai Demokrat memiliki kontrol terhadap Senat. Saat ini, keanggotaan Senat terdiri dari 53 Demokrat, dua independen yang berkaukus dengan Demokrat, dan 45 Republikan, sedangkan keanggotaan DPR terdiri dari 232 Republikan dan 200 Demokrat (ada tiga kursi kosong). Terdapat 30 Republikan dan 19 Demokrat yang menjabat sebagai gubernur negara bagian, serta satu independen.

Sejak berdirinya Amerika Serikat sampai tahun 2000-an, kursi pemerintahan selalu didominasi oleh penduduk kulit putih keturunan Inggris yang beragama Protestan (WASP). Namun, baru-baru ini situasi telah berubah; dari 17 kursi teratas (empat kandidat nasional dari dua partai utama dalam pemilu 2012, empat pemimpin dalam Kongres ke-112, dan sembilan Hakim Agung) hanya terdapat satu orang WASP.

Hubungan Luar Negeri dan Militer


Menteri Luar Negeri Britania Raya William Hague dan Menteri Luar Negeri Amerika Serikat Hillary Clinton, Mei 2010

Amerika Serikat melakukan upaya besar-besaran untuk membangun hubungan luar negeri dan memperkuat militernya. Negara ini adalah anggota tetap Dewan Keamanan PBB, dan New York City menjadi lokasi dari Markas Besar PBB. Amerika Serikat juga merupakan anggota G8, G20, dan Organisasi untuk Kerjasama dan Pengembangan Ekonomi (OECD). Hampir semua negara-negara di dunia memiliki kedutaan di Washington, D.C., dan banyak juga konsulat-konsulat yang bertebaran di berbagai negara bagian. Secara umum, hampir semua negara telah menjalin hubungan diplomatik dengan Amerika Serikat. Negara-negara yang yang tidak memiliki hubungan diplomatik resmi dengan AS adalah Kuba, Iran, Korea Utara, Bhutan, dan Republik Tiongkok (Taiwan) – meskipun AS tetap memasok peralatan militer kepada Taiwan.

Amerika Serikat memiliki “Hubungan Istimewa” dengan Britania Raya dan menjalin hubungan yang erat dengan Kanada, Australia, Selandia Baru, Filipina, Jepang, Korea Selatan, Israel dan beberapa negara Eropa seperti Perancis dan Jerman. AS juga bekerja sama dalam isu-isu militer dan keamanan dengan negara sahabatnya sesama anggota NATO serta dengan negara tetangganya melalui Organisasi Negara-Negara Amerika dan perjanjian perdagangan bebas seperti trilateral Perjanjian Perdagangan Bebas Amerika Utara dengan Kanada dan Meksiko. Pada tahun 2008, Amerika Serikat menghabiskan anggaran bersih sekitar $25,4 miliar untuk bantuan pembangunan resmi; jumlah terbesar di dunia. Namun, sebagai negara dengan Produk Nasional Bruto (PNB) yang besar, di antara 20 negara-negara donor lainnya, sumbangan Amerika Serikat yang sebesar 0,18% berada di posisi terakhir. Sebaliknya, sumbangan pribadi yang diberikan oleh warga Amerika cukup dermawan.

Presiden memegang jabatan panglima tertinggi angkatan bersenjata nasional. Ia juga memiliki hak untuk menunjuk pemimpin militer, menunjuk menteri pertahanan dan Staf Kepala Gabungan. Departemen Pertahanan Amerika Serikat mengelola angkatan bersenjata nasional, termasuk Angkatan Darat, Angkatan Laut, Korps Marinir, dan Angkatan Udara. Pasukan Penjaga Pantai dikelola oleh Departemen Keamanan Dalam Negeri pada masa-masa damai dan oleh Departemen Angkatan Laut pada masa perang. Pada 2008, angkatan bersenjata AS memiliki 1,4 juta personel yang aktif bertugas. Selain itu, terdapat juga pasukan cadangan dan Garda Nasional yang memiliki 2,3 juta tentara. Departemen Pertahanan juga mempekerjakan sekitar 700.000 warga sipil, tidak termasuk kontraktor.


Formasi Kitty Hawk, Ronald Reagan, dan Abraham Lincoln dengan pesawat tempur dari Korps Marinir, Angkatan Laut, dan Angkatan Udara.

Pelayanan militer di AS dilakukan secara sukarela, namun wajib militer juga bisa diberlakukan pada masa-masa perang. Militer Amerika memiliki sejumlah besar armada pesawat udara, sebelas kapal induk aktif Angkatan Laut, dan Unit Ekspedisi Marinir di laut dengan armada Angkatan Laut di Pasifik dan Atlantik. Militer AS juga mengoperasikan 865 fasilitas dan pangkalan militer di luar negeri, serta memfasilitasi keberadaan kurang lebih 1,4 juta personelnya yang tersebar di 25 negara asing. Karena begitu meluasnya kehadiran personel militer AS di seluruh dunia, negara ini dianggap seolah-olah sedang membangun “imperium pangkalan militer”.

Total pengeluaran militer AS pada tahun 2011 lebih dari $700 miliar, atau sekitar 41% dari total pengeluaran militer dunia dan lebih besar dari jumlah pengeluaran militer nasional empat belas negara berikutnya jika digabungkan. Dengan persentase pengeluaran militer 4,7% dari total PDB, AS merupakan negara dengan pemborosan militer tertinggi kedua di dunia setelah Arab Saudi. Berdasarkan persentasenya dari total PDB, anggaran pertahanan AS adalah yang tertinggi ke-23 di dunia menurut CIA. Anggaran pertahanan AS umumnya menurun dalam beberapa dekade terakhir, mencapai puncaknya saat Perang Dingin (14,2% pada 1953 dan merosot ke 4,7% pada 2011). Anggaran militer yang diusulkan oleh Departemen Keamanan pada tahun 2012 adalah $553 miliar; naik 4,2% dari anggaran militer tahun sebelumnya. Selain itu, $118 miliar juga diusulkan untuk mendanai kampanye militer di Irak dan Afganistan. Tentara Amerika terakhir yang bertugas di Irak ditarik pada bulan Desember 2011; tercatat sebanyak 4.484 prajurit gugur selama Perang Irak. Sekitar 90.000 tentara AS juga bertugas di Afganistan; hingga 4 April 2012, sebanyak 1.924 prajurit AS gugur selama Perang Afganistan.


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Amerika Serikat menerapkan sistem ekonomi kapitalis campuran yang didukung oleh ketersediaan sumber daya alam yang melimpah, infrastruktur yang dikembangkan dengan baik, dan produktivitas yang tinggi. Menurut International Monetary Fund (IMF), PDB AS adalah $15,1 triliun, atau sekitar 22% dari produk dunia bruto, dan dengan nilai pertukaran pasar hampir 19% dari total produk dunia bruto menurut keseimbangan kemampuan berbelanja (KKB). Jika dihitung sebagai negara tunggal, angka ini merupakan yang terbesar di dunia; PDB nasional AS hanya 5% lebih kecil dari total PDB Uni Eropa yang jumlah populasinya 62% lebih banyak. Di antara negara-negara lainnya, Amerika Serikat menempati peringkat ke-9 di dunia menurut PDB nominal per kapita dan peringkat 6 menurut PDB (KKB) per kapita. Dolar Amerika Serikat adalah cadangan mata uang utama di dunia.

Amerika Serikat adalah importir barang terbesar pertama dan eksportir terbesar kedua di dunia, meskipun ekspor per kapita nya masih agak rendah. Pada tahun 2010, total defisit perdagangan Amerika Serikat adalah $635 biliun. Kanada, RRC, Meksiko, Jepang, dan Jerman adalah mitra perdagangan utama AS. Pada 2010, minyak adalah komoditas impor terbesar, sedangkan alat transportasi adalah komoditas ekspor terbesar Amerika Serikat. RRC dan Jepang adalah dua negara asing terbesar pemegang utang publik AS.


Bursa Saham New York di Wall Street adalah bursa saham terbesar di dunia menurut total kapitalisasi pasar.

Pada tahun 2009, sektor swasta diperkirakan menyumbangkan 86,4% bagi perekonomian nasional, diikuti oleh perekonomian pemerintah federal sebesar 4,3% dan perekonomian negara bagian dan pemerintah daerah (termasuk transfer federal) sebesar 9,3%. Perekonomian AS tergolong ke dalam perekonomian pascaindustri; sektor jasa menyumbangkan sekitar 67,8% bagi total PDB. Meskipun demikian, AS masih dianggap sebagai kekuatan industri utama di dunia. Ladang bisnis utama menurut penerimaan bisnis bruto berasal dari sektor perdagangan grosir dan ritel; sedangkan menurut pendapatan bersih, bisnis utama perekonomian AS adalah manufaktur.

Sektor manufaktur didominasi oleh produk-produk kimia. AS merupakan produsen minyak terbesar ketiga di dunia, dan juga importir minyak terbesar. Negara ini juga menjadi produsen terbesar energi nuklir dan listrik, begitu juga dengan gas alam likuid, sulfur, fosfat, dan garam. Meskipun sektor pertanian hanya menyumbangkan kurang dari 1% bagi total PDB, AS merupakan produsen terbesar tanaman jagung dan kedelai. Bursa Saham New York adalah bursa saham terbesar di dunia menurut jumlah dagangan dalam dolar. Coca-Cola dan McDonald’s adalah dua merek dagang asal AS yang paling terkenal di dunia.

Pada Agustus 2010, angkatan kerja di Amerika Serikat berjumlah 154,1 juta orang. Sektor pemerintahan adalah sektor yang paling banyak menyerap tenaga kerja, yang mempekerjakan sekitar 21,2 juta orang. Sedangkan sektor swasta yang paling banyak menyerap tenaga kerja adalah sektor kesehatan dan bantuan sosial, mempekerjakan lebih dari 16 juta orang. Sekitar 12% angkatan kerja di AS telah tergabung ke dalam serikat pekerja, lebih tinggi jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara di Eropa Barat (30% secara keseluruhan). Pada 2011, Bank Dunia menempatkan AS di peringkat teratas negara-negara di dunia dari segi kemudahan dalam merekrut dan memecat tenaga kerja.

Resesi ekonomi global 2008-2012 sangat memengaruhi perekonomian Amerika Serikat. Sebagai contoh, tingkat pengangguran semakin tinggi, Indeks Kepercayaan Konsumen rendah, pendapatan rumah tangga terus menurun, dan penyitaan serta kebangkrutan pribadi semakin meningkat, yang ujung-ujungnya memicu krisis utang federal, inflasi, dan melonjaknya harga bahan pangan dan minyak bumi. Meskipun data resmi menunjukkan bahwa perekonomian AS sudah pulih, sebuah jajak pendapat pada tahun 2000 menunjukkan bahwa separo warga Amerika menganggap perekonomian AS masih dalam keadaan resesi, bahkan lebih parah lagi, depresi. Pada tahun 2009, AS menjadi negara dengan produktivitas tenaga kerja per orang tertinggi ketiga di dunia, di belakang Luksemburg dan Norwegia. Pada tahun yang sama, AS juga menjadi negara keempat yang paling produktif per jam, di belakang kedua negara yang disebutkan sebelumnya dan Belanda. Jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara Eropa, tarif pajak penghasilan di AS masih lebih tinggi, sedangkan pajak konsumen tarifnya lebih rendah.

Pendapatan dan pembangunan manusia


Kompleks perumahan suburban kelas menengah di San Jose, California

Menurut Biro Sensus Amerika Serikat, rata-rata penghasilan rumah tangga warga AS sebelum kena pajak adalah $49.445 per tahun; rata-rata penghasilan rumah tangga Asia-Amerika adalah $65.469, sedangkan rata-rata penghasilan rumah tangga Afrika-Amerika adalah $32.584. Dengan menggunakan tingkat pertukaran kemampuan berbelanja, rata-rata penghasilan keseluruhan rumah tangga warga AS termasuk yang tertinggi jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara maju lainnya. Pada tahun 2007, rata-rata penghasilan rumah tangga di AS adalah yang tertinggi kedua di antara negara-negara OECD, satu tingkat di bawah Luksemburg. Masih pada tahun yang sama, rata-rata gaji tenaga kerja di AS adalah yang tertinggi di antara negara-negara OECD lainnya. Setelah merosot tajam pada pertengahan abad ke-20, angka kemiskinan di AS telah stabil pada awal 1970-an; tercatat hanya 11-15% warga Amerika yang hidup di bawah garis kemiskinan setiap tahunnya, dan sekitar 58,5% warga AS pernah hidup dalam kemiskinan selama sekurang-kurangnya satu tahun pada saat berusia 25-75 tahun. Pada tahun 2010, 43,2 juta penduduk Amerika hidup dalam garis kemiskinan.

Kesejahteraan hidup di AS adalah salah satu yang paling tinggi di antara negara-negara maju lainnya, baik dalam mengurangi kemiskinan relatif maupun kemiskinan absolut, yang angkanya jauh lebih kecil dari rata-rata negara kaya lainnya, meskipun pengeluaran per kapita pemerintah dan swasta di AS adalah yang tertinggi. Kemiskinan secara efektif berkurang di kalangan warga yang berusia tua. Sebuah studi pada 2007 yang dilakukan oleh UNICEF mengenai kesejahteraan anak-anak di 21 negara-negara maju menempatkan AS di peringkat bawah.

Antara tahun 1947 dan 1979, rata-rata pendapatan riil warga AS meningkat lebih dari 80% di semua kelas masyarakat, dengan pendapatan warga miskin meningkat lebih cepat dibandingkan dengan pendapatan warga kaya. Namun, pendapatan gaji menurun, terutama sekali disebabkan oleh kelesuan ekonomi. Pendapatan rumah tangga rata-rata juga meningkat untuk semua kelas sejak tahun 1980, sebagian besar disebabkan oleh terdapatnya lebih dari dua orang pencari nafkah dalam satu rumah tangga, berakhirnya kesenjangan gaji menurut gender, dan jam kerja yang lebih lama.

Secara keseluruhan, pada 2005, hanya 1%—21,8% warga Amerika yang pendapatannya telah meningkat dua kali lipat sejak 1980, hal ini menjadikan AS sebagai negara dengan kesenjangan pendapatan terbesar jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara maju lainnya. Amerika Serikat mengenakan sistem pajak progresif kepada warga negaranya; penduduk yang berpenghasilan besar membayar pajak dengan persentase yang lebih besar dari penghasilan mereka yang terkena pajak.

Kekayaan warga AS, sama halnya dengan pendapatan dan pajak, sangat bervariasi: 10% warga Amerika terkaya menguasai 69,8% kekayaan rumah tangga negara, tertinggi kedua jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara maju lainnya. 1% di antaranya memiliki 33,4% dari total kekayaan bersih. Pada 2011, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) menempatkan Amerika Serikat di peringkat ke-23 dari 139 negara menurut kesenjangan indeks pembangunan manusia, atau 19 peringkat di bawah standar IPM.


Ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi


Neil Armstrong adalah manusia pertama yang mendarat di Bulan.

Amerika Serikat telah menjadi pemimpin dalam riset ilmiah dan inovasi teknologi sejak akhir abad ke-19. Pada tahun 1876, Alexander Graham Bell menerima paten pertama AS atas penemuan telepon. Laboratorium Thomas Edison mengembangkan fonograf, lampu pijar tahan lama, dan kamera film pertama. Nikola Tesla memelopori penciptaan arus bolak-balik, motor AC, dan radio. Pada awal abad ke-20, perusahaan mobil Ransom E. Olds dan Henry Ford memopulerkan sistem lini perakitan. Pada 1903, Wright bersaudara menciptakan sejarah dengan melakukan penerbangan bertenaga terkontrol dan berkelanjutan pertama dengan material yang lebih berat dari udara.

Munculnya Nazisme pada 1930-an mendorong ilmuwan-ilmuwan Eropa seperti Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, dan John von Neumann untuk berbondong-bondong hijrah ke Amerika Serikat. Selama Perang Dunia II, Amerika Serikat mengembangkan senjata nuklir, yang kemudian menghantarkan dunia ke Zaman Atom. Perlombaan Angkasa pada era Perang Dingin menghasilkan kemajuan yang pesat dalam bidang peroketan, sains material, dan komputer. IBM, Apple Computer, dan Microsoft memperkenalkan dan memopulerkan penggunaan komputer pribadi (PC).

AS sangat berperan besar dalam mengembangkan ARPANET dan penerusnya, Internet. Saat ini, sekitar 64% pendanaan untuk kepentingan riset dan pengembangan berasal dari sektor swasta. Amerika Serikat adalah negara terdepan dalam pangsa jurnal dan kutipan ilmiah. Pada April 2011, 80% rumah tangga di Amerika Serikat setidaknya telah memiliki satu komputer, dan 68% di antaranya telah tersambung dengan layanan Internet jalur lebar. Sekitar 85% warga Amerika juga telah memiliki telepon genggam pada tahun 2011. Negara ini juga merupakan pengembang dan penanam utama makanan modifikasi genetik dan memproduksi setengah dari tanaman bioteknologi dunia.



Interstate Highway System, yang membentang sepanjang 46.876 mile (75.440 km).

Transportasi pribadi di AS didominasi oleh mobil, yang beroperasi di lebih dari 13 juta jaringan jalan raya, salah satunya merupakan sistem jalan raya terpanjang di dunia. Amerika Serikat juga merupakan pasar mobil terbesar kedua di dunia (setelah RRC), memiliki angka kepemilikan kendaraan per kapita tertinggi di dunia; dengan rasio 765 kendaraan per 1.000 jiwa. Sekitar 40% dari total kendaraan pribadi adalah mobil van, SUV, atau truk ringan. Rata-rata orang dewasa di AS menghabiskan waktu 55 menit berkendara setiap harinya, dengan jarak tempuh 29 mile (47 km).

Angkutan massal dipergunakan oleh sekitar 9% perjalanan umum di Amerika Serikat. Pemanfaatan kereta api untuk transportasi barang sangat meluas, namun sangat sedikit warga AS yang menggunakan layanan kereta untuk bepergian. Meskipun demikian, jumlah penumpang Amtrak – layanan kereta api penumpang antar kota – meningkat sebesar 37% antara tahun 2000 dan 2010. Pengembangan kereta rel listrik juga meningkat dalam beberapa tahun terakhir. Transportasi sepeda umumnya digunakan oleh para pekerja komute.

Industri penerbangan sipil sepenuhnya dimiliki oleh swasta dan sebagian besarnya telah teregulasi sejak tahun 1978, sedangkan hampir keseluruhan bandar udara utama dimiliki oleh pemerintah. Tiga maskapai penerbangan terbesar di dunia menurut jumlah penumpang yang diangkut berbasis di Amerika Serikat; nomor satunya adalah Delta Air Lines. Dari tiga puluh bandar udara penumpang tersibuk di dunia, enam belas di antaranya terdapat di Amerika Serikat; yang tersibuk adalah Bandar Udara Internasional Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.


Pasaran energi Amerika Serikat adalah 29.000 jam-terawatt per tahun. Konsumsi energi per kapita adalah 7,8 ton kesetaraan minyak per tahun; tertinggi ke-10 di dunia. Pada 2005, 40% energi ini berasal dari minyak bumi, 23% dari batu bara, dan 22% dari gas alam. Sisanya dipasok oleh tenaga nuklir dan sumber energi terbarukan lainnya. Amerika Serikat adalah konsumen minyak bumi terbesar kedua di dunia. Selama beberapa dekade terakhir, tenaga nuklir di Amerika Serikat hanya memainkan peran yang relatif kecil jika dibandingkan dengan sebagian besar negara maju lainnya; hal ini antara lain disebabkan oleh persepsi publik yang muncul akibat musibah 1979. Pada tahun 2007, beberapa usulan untuk membangun pembangkit nuklir yang baru mulai diajukan. Amerika Serikat juga dilaporkan memiliki 27% dari total cadangan batu bara dunia.



Universitas Harvard di Massachusetts adalah salah satu universitas terkemuka di dunia.

Pendidikan umum di Amerika Serikat dikelola oleh negara bagian dan pemerintah daerah, serta diregulasikan oleh Departemen Pendidikan Amerika Serikat dengan anggaran dari pemerintah federal. Di sebagian besar negara bagian, anak-anak diwajibkan bersekolah ketika berusia enam atau tujuh tahun (taman kanak-kanak atau kelas satu) sampai mereka berusia delapan belas tahun (kira-kira kelas dua belas, akhir dari sekolah menengah atas). Beberapa negara bagian memperbolehkan siswa untuk meninggalkan sekolah pada usia 16 atau 17 tahun. Sekitar 12% anak-anak terdaftar di sekolah swasta keagamaan ataupun nonkeagamaan. Hanya 2% anak-anak yang yang mengikuti sekolah rumah (homeschooling).

Amerika Serikat memiliki banyak institusi sekolah tinggi yang kompetitif, baik yang berstatus negeri maupun swasta. Menurut sebuah pemeringkatan internasional, 13 dari 15 sekolah tinggi dan universitas di Amerika menempati daftar 20 universitas terkemuka di dunia. Ada juga kolese komunitas lokal yang menawarkan kebijakan yang lebih terbuka, program akademik yang lebih singkat, dan biaya pendidikan yang lebih murah. Dari keseluruhan warga Amerika yang berusia di atas 25 tahun, 84,6% di antaranya adalah lulusan sekolah menengah atas, dengan rincian 52,6% sedang kuliah di universitas, 27,2% telah menyandang gelar sarjana, dan 9,6% selebihnya telah meraih ijazah pascasarjana. Angka melek huruf di AS diperkirakan sebesar 99%, dengan artian hanya 1% warga AS yang tidak bisa membaca. Pada 2006, PBB memberikan Indeks Pendidikan 0,97 kepada Amerika Serikat; yang tertinggi ke-12 di dunia.



Texas Medical Center di Houston, pusat pengobatan terbesar di dunia.

Angka harapan hidup di Amerika Serikat pada tahun 2011 adalah 78,4 tahun; peringkat ke-50 dari 221 negara. Meningkatnya obesitas di AS dan semakin majunya kesehatan di negara-negara lain adalah faktor utama yang menyebabkan menurunnya peringkat angka harapan hidup negara ini sejak tahun 1987; yang mana pada saat itu AS menempati peringkat ke-11 di dunia. Tingkat obesitas di Amerika Serikat termasuk yang tertinggi di dunia. Diperkirakan sepertiga dari populasi orang dewasa mengidap obesitas dan sepertiganya lagi memiliki kelebihan berat badan; tingkat obesitas di negara ini adalah yang tertinggi jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara industri lainnya, meningkat dua kali lipat dalam seperempat abad terakhir. Diabetes tipe 2, penyakit yang terkait dengan obesitas, telah dianggap sebagai wabah oleh para pakar kesehatan. Angka kematian bayi adalah 6,06 per 1000, menempatkan AS di peringkat ke-46 dari 222 negara.

Amerika Serikat adalah negara terdepan dalam inovasi kedokteran. Menurut sebuah jajak pendapat oleh para dokter pada tahun 2001, Amerika Serikat mengembangkan atau memberikan kontribusi yang signifikan terhadap 9 dari 10 inovasi kedokteran teratas yang paling penting sejak tahun 1975, sedangkan Uni Eropa dan Swiss jika digabungkan hanya menyumbangkan lima kontribusi. Sejak 1966, AS adalah penerima Hadiah Nobel Kedokteran terbanyak daripada negara manapun di dunia. Dari 1989-2002, investasi di perusahaan-perusahaan bioteknologi swasta di Amerika Serikat lebih banyak/ref> Selama beberapa dekade terakhir, tenaga nuklir di Amerika Serikat hanya memainkan peran yang relatif kecil jika dibandingkan dengan sebagian besar negara maju lainnya; hal ini antara lain disebabkan oleh persepsi publik yang muncul akibat musibah 1979. Pada tahun 2007, beberapa usulan untuk membangun pembangkit nuklir yang baru mulai diajukan. empat kali lipat jika dibandingkan dengan Eropa.

Anggaran kesehatan di Amerika Serikat jauh lebih tinggi jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara lainnya, baik yang diukur menurut pengeluaran per kapita ataupun menurut persentasenya dari PDB. Pelayanan kesehatan di AS dikelola melalui kerja sama antara sektor publik dan swasta, dan tidak bersifat universal seperti di kebanyakan negara-negara maju lainnya. Pada tahun 2004, asuransi swasta membiayai 36% dari pengeluaran kesehatan pribadi, swasta 15%, dan pemerintah federal, negara bagian, dan pemerintah daerah membiayai 44%.

Pada tahun 2005, 46,6 juta warga Amerika, atau 15,9% dari total populasi, tidak diasuransikan; meningkat dari 5,4 juta pada tahun 2001. Penyebab utama kenaikan ini adalah semakin berkurangnya jumlah pengusaha Amerika yang mengasuransikan karyawannya. Tingginya jumlah penduduk Amerika yang tidak diasuransikan telah menjadi isu politik utama akhir-akhir ini. Pada tahun 2006, Massachusetts menjadi negara bagian pertama yang mewajibkan asuransi kesehatan universal. Sebuah Undang-undang federal dirumuskan pada tahun 2010 untuk membentuk suatu sistem asuransi kesehatan universal di seluruh negara bagian, yang akan mulai diberlakukan pada 2014.

Kriminalitas dan penegakan hukum


Sebuah mobil patroli polisi. Departemen Kepolisian New York (NYPD) adalah badan kepolisian terbesar di Amerika Serikat.

Penegakan hukum di Amerika Serikat adalah tanggung jawab utama badan kepolisian lokal dan departemen sheriff, sedangkan kepolisian negara bagian memberikan pelayanan yang lebih luas. Lembaga-lembaga federal seperti Biro Investigasi Federal (FBI) dan U.S. Marshals Service memiliki tugas-tugas khusus. Di tingkat federal dan hampir di keseluruhan negara bagian, sistem hukum yang digunakan adalah hukum umum yang diadopsi dari hukum Inggris.

Pengadilan negara bagian bertugas menggelar sebagian besar persidangan kriminal; pengadilan federal menangani kejahatan-kejahatan tertentu yang tidak bisa ditangani oleh pengadilan kriminal negara bagian. Hukum federal melarang kepemilikan obat-obatan tertentu, namun negara bagian terkadang juga mengeluarkan undang-undang yang bertentangan dengan hukum federal. Usia merokok yang diijinkan bagi warga negara umumnya 18 tahun, dan usia minum umumnya 21 tahun.

Di antara negara-negara maju lainnya, angka kriminalitas di Amerika Serikat cukup tinggi. Tindakan kriminal yang paling banyak terjadi adalah kekerasan bersenjata dan pembunuhan. Pada 2011, terjadi 4,7 kasus pembunuhan per seribu jiwa; 14,5% lebih sedikit dibandingkan dengan tahun 2000 (5,5 kasus), dan 19,0% lebih sedikit sejak mencapai puncaknya pada 2006 (5,8 kasus). Kepemilikan senjata api di AS masih menjadi subjek perdebatan politik yang kontroversial.

Amerika Serikat termasuk salah satu negara yang memiliki tingkat penahanan dan total populasi penjara tertinggi di dunia. Pada awal 2008, lebih dari 2,3 juta warga Amerika mendekam di penjara, dengan rasio penahanan 1 per 100 orang dewasa. Angka penahanan saat ini meningkat hampir tujuh kali lipat sejak 1980, dan tiga kali lipat lebih tinggi dari angka penahanan di Polandia – negara OECD dengan angka penahanan tertinggi kedua. Jumlah pria Afrika-Amerika yang menghuni penjara empat kali lipat lebih banyak dari jumlah pria kulit putih dan tiga kali lipat lebih banyak dari pria Hispanik. Tingginya tingkat penahanan di Amerika Serikat terutama sekali disebabkan oleh kebijakan hukuman dan obat-obatan terlarang.

Hukuman mati di Amerika Serikat dikenakan kepada kejahatan-kejahatan federal dan militer tertentu, dan diterapkan oleh tiga puluh negara bagian. Tidak ada eksekusi yang dijatuhkan antara tahun 1967-1977 karena keputusan Mahkamah Agung saat itu menolak penggunaan hukuman mati. Namun, pada 1976, Mahkamah Agung memutuskan bahwa hukuman mati secara konstitusional dapat dijatuhkan. Semenjak itu, tercatat lebih dari 1.300 eksekusi telah dilakukan di wilayah hukum Amerika Serikat, sebagian besarnya terjadi di tiga negara bagian; Texas, Virginia, dan Oklahoma. Empat negara bagian telah menghapuskan hukuman mati, namun dua di antaranya (New Mexico dan Connecticut) belum mengubah hukum-hukumnya. Selain itu, pengadilan negara bagian di Massachusetts dan New York belum memutuskan status hukuman mati di wilayah hukum mereka. Pada 2010, Amerika Serikat merupakan negara dengan jumlah hukuman mati tertinggi kelima di dunia, setelah RRC, Iran, Korea Utara, dan Yaman.



Patung Liberty di New York City adalah simbol Amerika Serikat sekaligus simbol kebebasan, demokrasi, dan kesempatan.

Amerika Serikat adalah negara multikultural, tempat tinggal bagi berbagai kelompok etnik, tradisi, dan nilai-nilai. Selain sejumlah kecil penduduk asli Amerika dan penduduk asli Hawaii, hampir semua penduduk Amerika berasal dari nenek moyang yang bermigrasi ke Amerika Serikat pada zaman dahulu. Kebudayaan utama Amerika berasal dari kebudayaan Barat yang bersumber dari tradisi imigran Eropa (terutama Inggris di Utara dan Spanyol di Selatan), dan kemudian dipengaruhi oleh berbagai sumber seperti tradisi yang dibawa oleh budak-budak Afrika. Munculnya gelombang migrasi bangsa Asia dan Amerika Latin juga turut memperkaya khasanah budaya Amerika Serikat. Para imigran ini tetap mempertahankan karakteristik budaya asli mereka.

Kebudayaan Amerika dianggap sebagai kebudayaan yang paling individualistik di dunia. Konsep “American Dream”, atau anggapan bahwa kehidupan sosial di Amerika lebih baik, berkembang di kalangan banyak orang dan berperan penting dalam menarik para imigran. Meskipun budaya arus utama menyatakan bahwa Amerika Serikat adalah negara dengan masyarakat tanpa kelas, para pakar menemukan terdapat perbedaan kelas sosial yang signifikan di negara itu, perbedaan ini tampak dalam segi sosialisasi, penggunaan bahasa, dan nilai-nilai.

Warga Amerika kelas menengah dan profesional telah memelopori dan memperkenalkan tren-tren sosial kontemporer seperti feminisme modern, environmentalisme, dan multikulturalisme. Citra diri, sudut pandang sosial, dan ekspektasi budaya warga Amerika telah dikaitkan dengan pencapaian dan kemajuan Amerika Serikat. Sedangkan kebiasaan warga Amerika yang cenderung menilai sesuatu berdasarkan prestasi sosial ekonomi secara umum dianggap sebagai atribut yang positif.

Media Populer


Hollywood Sign di Los Angeles, California.

Film komersial pertama di dunia dibuat di New York City pada tahun 1894 dengan menggunakan kinetoskop Thomas Alfa Edison. Setahun kemudian, penayangan film komersial pertama di dunia juga dilakukan di New York City. Selama dekade-dekade berikutnya, Amerika Serikat berada di garis depan dalam pengembangan film bersuara. Sejak awal abad ke-20, sebagian besar industri film AS telah dipusatkan di sekitar Hollywood, California.

Sutradara D. W. Griffith adalah tokoh utama yang mengembangkan tata bahasa film, dan film Citizen Kane (1941) karya sutradara Orson Welles sering disebut-sebut sebagai film terbaik sepanjang masa. Pemeran-pemeran Amerika seperti John Wayne, John Travolta dan Marilyn Monroe telah menjadi ikon populer di dunia. Produser dan pengusaha Walt Disney adalah pelopor dan tokoh terkemuka dalam film animasi dan pernak-pernik film. Hollywood juga menjadi salah satu produsen film-film terlaris di dunia.

Amerika Serikat memiliki jumlah pemirsa televisi terbanyak di dunia, dan rata-rata waktu menonton televisi terus meningkat sepanjang tahun, mencapai 5 jam per hari pada tahun 2006. Empat jaringan televisi utama adalah saluran komersial. Warga Amerika juga gemar mendengarkan radio, dengan rata-rata lebih dari dua setengah jam per hari. Sebagian besar saluran radio ini juga bersifat komersial. Selain portal web dan mesin pencari, situs-situs yang paling populer di Amerika Serikat adalah Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Blogger, eBay, dan Craigslist.

Musik Afrika-Amerika yang bergaya ritmis dan liris telah ikut memengaruhi perkembangan musik Amerika, yang membedakannya dengan musik-musik Eropa. Unsur-unsur musik rakyat seperti blues dan old-time music telah diadopsi dan diubah menjadi genre pop yang menyebar ke seluruh dunia. Musik jazz dikembangkan di AS oleh musisi-musisi seperti Louis Armstrong dan Duke Ellington pada awal abad ke-20. Musik country berkembang pada tahun 1920-an, dan rhythm and blues pada 1940-an.

Elvis Presley dan Chuck Berry yang populer pada pertengahan 1950-an adalah pionir dari rock and roll. Pada 1960-an, Bob Dylan muncul dari kebangkitan musik rakyat dan menjadi salah satu penulis lagu Amerika yang paling terkenal. Pada tahun-tahun berikutnya, James Brown memelopori perkembangan funk. Genre musik asal Amerika yang baru-baru ini populer ke seluruh dunia adalah musik hip hop dan musik house. Bintang pop Amerika seperti Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, dan Lady Gaga telah menjadi selebriti dunia.

Sastra, Filsafat, dan Seni

Pada abad ke-18 dan awal abad ke-19, seni dan sastra Amerika sangat dipengaruhi oleh Eropa. Kemudian, penulis-penulis seperti Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, dan Henry David Thoreau mulai membentuk identitas sastra Amerika tersendiri pada pertengahan abad ke-19. Mark Twain dan penyair Walt Whitman adalah beberapa tokoh sastra terkemuka pada abad ke-20; Emily Dickinson, yang hampir tidak dikenal sepanjang hidupnya, saat ini diakui sebagai salah satu penyair Amerika yang paling berpengaruh. Sastra Amerika umumnya mengandung aspek-aspek fundamental kebangsaan, perjuangan hidup, dan kepahlawanan, termasuk novel-novel yang dijuluki dengan “Great American Novel”: Moby-Dick (1851) karya Herman Melville, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) karya Twain, dan The Great Gatsby (1925) karya F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Mark Twain, salah satu penulis Amerika terkemuka.

Sejauh ini, ada sebelas warga negara AS yang telah menerima Hadiah Nobel Sastra, yang terbaru adalah Toni Morrison pada 1993. William Faulkner dan Ernest Hemingway adalah nama-nama yang sering dianggap sebagai penulis Amerika yang paling berpengaruh pada abad ke-20.Genre sastra populer seperti fiksi Barat dan fiksi kriminal berkembang di Amerika Serikat. Penulis-penulis dari Beat Generation memelopori pendekatan sastra baru, misalnya penulis-penulis pascamodernis seperti John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, dan Don DeLillo.

Para rohaniwan, yang dipimpin oleh Thoreau dan Ralph Waldo Emerson, mendirikan pergerakan filsafat Amerika yang pertama. Setelah Perang Saudara, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, dan John Dewey memelopori perkembangan aliran pragmatisme. Pada abad ke-20, pemikiran-pemikiran W. V. O. Quine, Richard Rorty, dan Noam Chomsky telah memperkenalkan konsep filsafat analitik ke kalangan akademisi filsafat Amerika. Pada dekade berikutnya, John Rawls dan Robert Nozick memelopori kebangkitan filsafat politik.

Dalam seni rupa, Aliran Sungai Hudson adalah aliran yang memperkenalkan tradisi naturalisme Eropa di Amerika Serikat pada pertengahan abad 19. Lukisan-lukisan karya para realis seperti Thomas Eakins saat ini banyak diagung-agungkan. Pameran Armory Show di New York City pada 1913 yang memamerkan karya-karya seni modernis Eropa telah menarik perhatian publik dan mengubah pandangan dunia terhadap seni rupa Amerika. Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, dan yang lainnya bereksperimen dengan gaya-gaya baru yang lebih individualistis. Gaya seni rupa modern baru-baru ini seperti ekspresionisme abstrak karya Jackson Pollock dan Willem de Kooning serta seni pop karya Andy Warhol dan Roy Lichtenstein secara umum juga dikembangkan di Amerika Serikat. Gelombang modernisme dan pascamodernisme telah mentenarkan arsitek-arsitek Amerika seperti Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, dan Frank Gehry.


Times Square di New York City, pusat dari Teater Broadway.

Salah satu promotor besar pertama yang berperan penting dalam perkembangan teater Amerika adalah impresario P. T. Barnum, yang mulai mengoperasikan kompleks hiburan Manhattan pada 1841. Pada akhir 1970-an, tim Harrigan dan Hart memproduksi sejumlah pertunjukan komedi musikal populer di New York. Pada awal abad ke-20, pertunjukan teater mulai dipusatkan di Distik Teater Broadway, New York City. Saat ini, Broadway merupakan salah satu pusat pertunjukan teater berbahasa Inggris terkemuka di dunia, bersama dengan Teater West End di London. Lagu-lagu dari komposer teater musikal Broadway seperti Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, dan Stephen Sondheim telah menjadi standar pop. Dramawan Eugene O’Neill menerima Nobel Sastra pada tahun 1936. Dramawan Amerika terkemuka lainnya di antaranya penerima Pulitzer Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, dan August Wilson.

Meskipun hanya sedikit karya-karyanya yang diketahui, Charles Ives dianggap sebagai komposer musik klasik pertama Amerika Serikat, sedangkan eksperimentalis seperti Henry Cowell dan John Cage menciptakan pendekatan musik klasik Amerika yang berbeda dengan Eropa. Aaron Copland dan George Gershwin mengembangkan sintesis dari musik klasik dan musik pop. Koreografer Isadora Duncan dan Martha Graham juga berperan dalam menciptakan tarian modern, sedangkan George Balanchine dan Jerome Robbins adalah pionir balet pada abad ke-20. Warga Amerika juga memiliki kontribusi besar dalam perkembangan fotografi modern; fotografer-fotografer Amerika terkemuka di antaranya adalah Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, dan Ansel Adams. Inovasi Amerika lainnya adalah strip komik dan buku komik. Tokoh komik superhero seperti Superman telah terkenal ke seluruh dunia dan menjadi ikon Amerika.



Tipikal makanan siap saji Amerika, terdiri dari hamburger, kentang goreng, dan minuman ringan.

Kuliner Amerika serupa dengan kuliner yang ada di negara-negara Barat lainnya. Gandum adalah biji-bijian yang umumnya dipakai sebagai sereal utama. Masakan tradisional Amerika menggunakan bahan-bahan asli, seperti kalkun, daging rusa, kentang, ubi jalar, jagung, labu, dan sirup mapel. Makanan ini dikonsumsi oleh penduduk asli Amerika dan pemukim awal bangsa Eropa.

Barbekyu daging sapi dan babi, kue ketam, keripik kentang, dan kue cokelat adalah makanan-makanan khas Amerika. Soul food, yang dikembangkan oleh budak-budak Afrika, populer di Selatan di kalangan warga Afrika-Amerika. Masakan sinkretis seperti Louisiana creole, Cajun, dan Tex-Mex juga populer di beberapa daerah.

Makanan-makanan seperti pai apel, ayam goreng, pizza, hamburger, dan hot dog diperkenalkan oleh para imigran Eropa. Sedangkan kentang goreng, masakan Meksiko seperti burrito dan taco, serta pasta, diadaptasi dari masakan Italia, dan umumnya dikonsumsi secara luas. Kebanyakan warga Amerika lebih menyukai kopi daripada teh. Industri di AS sebagian besar menguasai pasar makanan cepat saji, cola, jus jeruk, dan susu kemasan di seantero dunia.

Industri makanan cepat saji Amerika adalah yang terbesar di dunia, memelopori sistem pesan-antar pada 1930-an. Tingginya konsumsi makanan cepat saji telah memicu masalah kesehatan. Selama periode 1980-an dan 1990-an, asupan kalori warga Amerika meningkat 24%; kebiasaan warga Amerika yang seringkali makan di gerai makanan siap saji dikaitkan oleh para pakar kesehatan dengan apa yang mereka sebut dengan “wabah obesitas Amerika”. Minuman ringan juga sangat populer di AS; minuman bergula menyumbangkan 9% bagi asupan kalori warga Amerika.



Perenang Michael Phelps adalah atlet yang paling sukses dalam sejarah Olimpiade.

Bisbol telah ditetapkan sebagai olahraga nasional sejak akhir abad 19, sedangkan sepak bola Amerika (futbol) dianggap sebagai olahraga yang paling populer menurut jumlah penonton. Bola basket dan hoki es adalah dua olahraga populer lainnya, dengan tim-tim yang sukses secara internasional. Pertandingan futbol dan bola basket universitas selalu disaksikan oleh banyak orang. Tinju dan pacuan kuda dulunya adalah olahraga individu yang paling banyak disaksikan, namun kemudian digantikan oleh golf dan balap mobil, terutama NASCAR. Sedangkan sepak bola (di Amerika disebut soccer) kurang populer jika dibandingkan dengan negara-negara lainnya. Tenis dan kebanyakan olahraga luar ruangan juga populer di kalangan warga Amerika. Turnamen tenis Grand Slam digelar di New York City setiap tahunnya.

Sebagian besar olahraga utama di AS telah berevolusi dari olahraga Eropa; bola basket, bola voli, skateboarding, snowboarding, dan cheerleading adalah penemuan-penemuan Amerika yang populer di negara-negara lainnya. Lacrosse dan selancar berasal dari aktivitas penduduk asli Amerika dan penduduk asli Hawaii sebelum kedatangan bangsa Barat. Delapan ajang Olimpiade telah diselenggarakan di Amerika Serikat. Sejauh ini, AS telah mendulang 2.301 medali dalam Olimpiade Musim Panas, lebih banyak dari negara manapun, dan 253 medali dalam Olimpiade Musim Dingin; yang terbanyak kedua pada 2006.

Sistem Pengukuran

Meskipun Amerika Serikat berwenang dalam menetapkan sistem metrik pada 1866 dan menjadi salah satu negara yang menandatangani Konvensi Meter pada 1875, sistem pengukuran di Amerika Serikat sangat mirip dengan satuan imperial Britania dan juga diadopsi dari sistem satuan Inggris. Panjang dan jarak dinyatakan dalam inci, kaki, dan mil; berat dalam pon dan ton dari 2000 pon; serta suhu dalam derajat Fahrenheit. Sebagian besar penamaan satuan AS memang sama dengan satuan imperial Britania, namun kapasitas pengukurannya berbeda; galon AS dan pint AS setara dengan 83% dalam satuan imperial, sedangkan fluid ons AS 4% lebih besar dari fl.oz imperial. Menurut CIA World Factbook, Amerika Serikat adalah salah satu dari tiga negara di dunia yang tidak menggunakan sistem metrik Satuan Internasional (SI) sebagai sistem satuan berat dan ukuran resmi mereka. Meskipun demikian, penggunaan SI tetap dominan dalam bidang sains, kedokteran, teknologi, dan perdagangan internasional.

List of the Tallest Statues in the United States

List of the Tallest Statues in the United States

This list of the tallest statues in the United States ranks free-standing statues based on their height from base to top. The list also includes novelty architecture, (which are not statues).

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Statues over 12.2 m (40 ft)

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Statues between 6.1 and 12.2 m (20 and 40 ft)

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Statues under 6.1 m (20 ft)

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Statue of Liberty

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States. The copper statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886.

The Statue of Liberty is a figure of a robed woman representing Libertas, a Roman goddess. She holds a torch above her head with her right hand, and in her left hand carries a tabula ansata inscribed in Roman numerals with “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776), the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.

Bartholdi was inspired by a French law professor and politician, Édouard René de Laboulaye, who is said to have commented in 1865 that any monument raised to U.S. independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples. Because of the post-war instability in France, work on the statue did not commence until the early 1870s. In 1875, Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the U.S. provide the site and build the pedestal. Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions.

The torch-bearing arm was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, and in Madison Square Park in Manhattan from 1876 to 1882. Fundraising proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened by lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer, of the New York World, started a drive for donations to finish the project and attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. The statue was built in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe’s Island. The statue’s completion was marked by New York’s first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.

The statue was administered by the United States Lighthouse Board until 1901 and then by the Department of War; since 1933 it has been maintained by the National Park Service. Public access to the balcony around the torch has been barred for safety since 1916.

1 Design and construction process
1.1 Origin
1.2 Design, style, and symbolism
1.3 Announcement and early work
1.4 Construction in France
1.4.1 Design
1.4.2 Fundraising
1.4.3 Construction
1.5 Dedication
2 After dedication
2.1 Lighthouse Board and War Department (1886–1933)
2.2 Early National Park Service years (1933–1982)
2.3 Renovation and rededication (1982–2000)
2.4 Closures and reopenings (2001–present)
3 Access and attributes
3.1 Location and tourism
3.2 Inscriptions, plaques, and dedications
4 UNESCO World Heritage Site
4.1 Physical characteristics
5 Depictions
6 List of the tallest statues in the United States

Design and Construction Process


According to the National Park Service, the idea for the Statue of Liberty was first proposed by Édouard René de Laboulaye the president of the French Anti-Slavery Society and a prominent and important political thinker of his time. The project is traced to a mid-1865 conversation between de Laboulaye, a staunch abolitionist and Frédéric Bartholdi, a sculptor. In after-dinner conversation at his home near Versailles, Laboulaye, an ardent supporter of the Union in the American Civil War, is supposed to have said: “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.” The National Park Service, in a 2000 report, however, deemed this a legend traced to an 1885 fundraising pamphlet, and that the statue was most likely conceived in 1870. In another essay on their website, the Park Service suggested that Laboulaye was minded to honor the Union victory and its consequences, “With the abolition of slavery and the Union’s victory in the Civil War in 1865, Laboulaye’s wishes of freedom and democracy were turning into a reality in the United States. In order to honor these achievements, Laboulaye proposed that a gift be built for the United States on behalf of France. Laboulaye hoped that by calling attention to the recent achievements of the United States, the French people would be inspired to call for their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy.”


Bartholdi’s Design Patent

According to sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who later recounted the story, Laboulaye’s comment was not intended as a proposal, but it inspired Bartholdi. Given the repressive nature of the regime of Napoleon III, Bartholdi took no immediate action on the idea except to discuss it with Laboulaye. Bartholdi was in any event busy with other possible projects; in the late 1860s, he approached Isma’il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, a plan to build Progress or Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia, a huge lighthouse in the form of an ancient Egyptian female fellah or peasant, robed and holding a torch aloft, at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal in Port Said. Sketches and models were made of the proposed work, though it was never erected. There was a classical precedent for the Suez proposal, the Colossus of Rhodes: an ancient bronze statue of the Greek god of the sun, Helios. This statue is believed to have been over 100 feet (30 m) high, and it similarly stood at a harbor entrance and carried a light to guide ships.

Any large project was further delayed by the Franco-Prussian War, in which Bartholdi served as a major of militia. In the war, Napoleon III was captured and deposed. Bartholdi’s home province of Alsace was lost to the Prussians, and a more liberal republic was installed in France. As Bartholdi had been planning a trip to the United States, he and Laboulaye decided the time was right to discuss the idea with influential Americans. In June 1871, Bartholdi crossed the Atlantic, with letters of introduction signed by Laboulaye.

Arriving at New York Harbor, Bartholdi focused on Bedloe’s Island (now named Liberty Island) as a site for the statue, struck by the fact that vessels arriving in New York had to sail past it. He was delighted to learn that the island was owned by the United States government—it had been ceded by the New York State Legislature in 1800 for harbor defense. It was thus, as he put it in a letter to Laboulaye: “land common to all the states.” As well as meeting many influential New Yorkers, Bartholdi visited President Ulysses S. Grant, who assured him that it would not be difficult to obtain the site for the statue. Bartholdi crossed the United States twice by rail, and met many Americans who he thought would be sympathetic to the project. But he remained concerned that popular opinion on both sides of the Atlantic was insufficiently supportive of the proposal, and he and Laboulaye decided to wait before mounting a public campaign.


Bartholdi’s Lion of Belfort

Bartholdi had made a first model of his concept in 1870. The son of a friend of Bartholdi’s, American artist John LaFarge, later maintained that Bartholdi made the first sketches for the statue during his U.S. visit at La Farge’s Rhode Island studio. Bartholdi continued to develop the concept following his return to France. He also worked on a number of sculptures designed to bolster French patriotism after the defeat by the Prussians. One of these was the Lion of Belfort, a monumental sculpture carved in sandstone below the fortress of Belfort, which during the war had resisted a Prussian siege for over three months. The defiant lion, 73 feet (22 m) long and half that in height, displays an emotional quality characteristic of Romanticism, which Bartholdi would later bring to the Statue of Liberty.

Design, Style, and Symbolism

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Detail from a fresco by Constantino Brumidi in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., showing two early symbols of America: Columbia (left) and the Indian princess

Bartholdi and Laboulaye considered how best to express the idea of American liberty. In early American history, two female figures were frequently used as cultural symbols of the nation. One of these symbols, the personified Columbia, was seen as an embodiment of the United States in the manner that Britannia was identified with the United Kingdom and Marianne came to represent France. Columbia had supplanted the earlier figure of an Indian princess, which had come to be regarded as uncivilized and derogatory toward Americans. The other significant female icon in American culture was a representation of Liberty, derived from Libertas, the goddess of freedom widely worshipped in ancient Rome, especially among emancipated slaves. A Liberty figure adorned most American coins of the time, and representations of Liberty appeared in popular and civic art, including Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom (1863) atop the dome of the United States Capitol Building.

Artists of the 18th and 19th centuries striving to evoke republican ideals commonly used representations of Libertas as an allegorical symbol. A figure of Liberty was also depicted on the Great Seal of France. However, Bartholdi and Laboulaye avoided an image of revolutionary liberty such as that depicted in Eugène Delacroix’s famed Liberty Leading the People (1830). In this painting, which commemorates France’s Revolution of 1830, a half-clothed Liberty leads an armed mob over the bodies of the fallen. Laboulaye had no sympathy for revolution, and so Bartholdi’s figure would be fully dressed in flowing robes. Instead of the impression of violence in the Delacroix work, Bartholdi wished to give the statue a peaceful appearance and chose a torch, representing progress, for the figure to hold.

Crawford’s statue was designed in the early 1850s. It was originally to be crowned with a pileus, the cap given to emancipated slaves in ancient Rome. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, a Southerner who would later serve as President of the Confederate States of America, was concerned that the pileus would be taken as an abolitionist symbol. He ordered that it be changed to a helmet. Delacroix’s figure wears a pileus, and Bartholdi at first considered placing one on his figure as well. Instead, he used a diadem, or crown, to top its head. In so doing, he avoided a reference to Marianne, who invariably wears a pileus. The seven rays form a halo or aureole. They evoke the sun, the seven seas, and the seven continents, and represent another means, besides the torch, whereby Liberty enlightens the world.

Bartholdi’s early models were all similar in concept: a female figure in neoclassical style representing liberty, wearing a stola and pella (gown and cloak, common in depictions of Roman goddesses) and holding a torch aloft. According to popular accounts, the face was modeled after that of Charlotte Beysser Bartholdi, the sculptor’s mother,] but Regis Huber, the curator of the Bartholdi Museum is on record as saying that this, as well as other similar speculations, have no basis in fact. He designed the figure with a strong, uncomplicated silhouette, which would be set off well by its dramatic harbor placement and allow passengers on vessels entering New York Bay to experience a changing perspective on the statue as they proceeded toward Manhattan. He gave it bold classical contours and applied simplified modeling, reflecting the huge scale of the project and its solemn purpose. Bartholdi wrote of his technique:


Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom

The surfaces should be broad and simple, defined by a bold and clear design, accentuated in the important places. The enlargement of the details or their multiplicity is to be feared. By exaggerating the forms, in order to render them more clearly visible, or by enriching them with details, we would destroy the proportion of the work. Finally, the model, like the design, should have a summarized character, such as one would give to a rapid sketch. Only it is necessary that this character should be the product of volition and study, and that the artist, concentrating his knowledge, should find the form and the line in its greatest simplicity.

Bartholdi made alterations in the design as the project evolved. Bartholdi considered having Liberty hold a broken chain, but decided this would be too divisive in the days after the Civil War. The erected statue does rise over a broken chain, half-hidden by her robes and difficult to see from the ground. Bartholdi was initially uncertain of what to place in Liberty’s left hand; he settled on a tabula ansata, used to evoke the concept of law. Though Bartholdi greatly admired the United States Constitution, he chose to inscribe “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” on the tablet, thus associating the date of the country’s Declaration of Independence with the concept of liberty.

Bartholdi interested his friend and mentor, architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, in the project. As chief engineer, Viollet-le-Duc designed a brick pier within the statue, to which the skin would be anchored. After consultations with the metalwork foundry Gaget, Gauthier & Co., Viollet-le-Duc chose the metal which would be used for the skin, copper sheets, and the method used to shape it, repoussé, in which the sheets were heated and then struck with wooden hammers. An advantage of this choice was that the entire statue would be light for its volume, as the copper need be only 0.094 inches (2.4 mm) thick. Bartholdi had decided on a height of just over 151 feet (46 m) for the statue, double that of Italy’s Sancarlone and the German statue of Arminius, both made with the same method.

Announcement and Early Work

By 1875, France was enjoying improved political stability and a recovering postwar economy. Growing interest in the upcoming Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia led Laboulaye to decide it was time to seek public support. In September 1875, he announced the project and the formation of the Franco-American Union as its fundraising arm. With the announcement, the statue was given a name, Liberty Enlightening the World. The French would finance the statue; Americans would be expected to pay for the pedestal. The announcement provoked a generally favorable reaction in France, though many Frenchmen resented the United States for not coming to their aid during the war with Prussia. French monarchists opposed the statue, if for no other reason than it was proposed by the liberal Laboulaye, who had recently been elected a senator for life. Laboulaye arranged events designed to appeal to the rich and powerful, including a special performance at the Paris Opera on April 25, 1876, that featured a new cantata by composer Charles Gounod. The piece was titled La Liberté éclairant le monde, the French version of the statue’s announced name.


Stereoscopic image of right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty, 1876 Centennial Exposition

Despite its initial focus on the elites, the Union was successful in raising funds from across French society. Schoolchildren and ordinary citizens gave, as did 181 French municipalities. Laboulaye’s political allies supported the call, as did descendants of the French contingent in the American Revolutionary War. Less idealistically, contributions came from those who hoped for American support in the French attempt to build the Panama Canal. The copper may have come from multiple sources and some of it is said to have come from a mine in Visnes, Norway, though this has not been conclusively determined after testing samples. According to Cara Sutherland in her book on the statue for the Museum of the City of New York, 90,800 kilos (200,000 pounds) was needed to build the statue, and the French copper industrialist Eugène Secrétan donated 58,100 kilos (128,000 pounds) of copper.

Although plans for the statue had not been finalized, Bartholdi moved forward with fabrication of the right arm, bearing the torch, and the head. Work began at the Gaget, Gauthier & Co. workshop. In May 1876, Bartholdi traveled to the United States as a member of a French delegation to the Centennial Exhibition, and arranged for a huge painting of the statue to be shown in New York as part of the Centennial festivities. The arm did not arrive in Philadelphia until August; because of its late arrival, it was not listed in the exhibition catalogue, and while some reports correctly identified the work, others called it the “Colossal Arm” or “Bartholdi Electric Light”. The exhibition grounds contained a number of monumental artworks to compete for fairgoers’ interest, including an outsized fountain designed by Bartholdi. Nevertheless, the arm proved popular in the exhibition’s waning days, and visitors would climb up to the balcony of the torch to view the fairgrounds. After the exhibition closed, the arm was transported to New York, where it remained on display in Madison Square Park for several years before it was returned to France to join the rest of the statue.

During his second trip to the United States, Bartholdi addressed a number of groups about the project, and urged the formation of American committees of the Franco-American Union. Committees to raise money to pay for the foundation and pedestal were formed in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The New York group eventually took on most of the responsibility for American fundraising and is often referred to as the “American Committee”. One of its members was 19-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, the future governor of New York and president of the United States. On March 3, 1877, on his final full day in office, President Grant signed a joint resolution that authorized the President to accept the statue when it was presented by France and to select a site for it. President Rutherford B. Hayes, who took office the following day, selected the Bedloe’s Island site that Bartholdi had proposed.

Construction in France


The statue’s head on exhibit at the Paris World’s Fair, 1878

On his return to Paris in 1877, Bartholdi concentrated on completing the head, which was exhibited at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair. Fundraising continued, with models of the statue put on sale. Tickets to view the construction activity at the Gaget, Gauthier & Co. workshop were also offered. The French government authorized a lottery; among the prizes were valuable silver plate and a terracotta model of the statue. By the end of 1879, about 250,000 francs had been raised.

The head and arm had been built with assistance from Viollet-le-Duc, who fell ill in 1879. He soon died, leaving no indication of how he intended to transition from the copper skin to his proposed masonry pier. The following year, Bartholdi was able to obtain the services of the innovative designer and builder Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel and his structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin, decided to abandon the pier and instead build an iron truss tower. Eiffel opted not to use a completely rigid structure, which would force stresses to accumulate in the skin and lead eventually to cracking. A secondary skeleton was attached to the center pylon, then, to enable the statue to move slightly in the winds of New York Harbor and as the metal expanded on hot summer days, he loosely connected the support structure to the skin using flat iron bars which culminated in a mesh of metal straps, known as “saddles”, that were riveted to the skin, providing firm support. In a labor-intensive process, each saddle had to be crafted individually. To prevent galvanic corrosion between the copper skin and the iron support structure, Eiffel insulated the skin with asbestos impregnated with shellac.

Eiffel’s design made the statue one of the earliest examples of curtain wall construction, in which the exterior of the structure is not load bearing, but is instead supported by an interior framework. He included two interior spiral staircases, to make it easier for visitors to reach the observation point in the crown. Access to an observation platform surrounding the torch was also provided, but the narrowness of the arm allowed for only a single ladder, 40 feet (12 m) long. As the pylon tower arose, Eiffel and Bartholdi coordinated their work carefully so that completed segments of skin would fit exactly on the support structure. The components of the pylon tower were built in the Eiffel factory in the nearby Parisian suburb of Levallois-Perret.

The change in structural material from masonry to iron allowed Bartholdi to change his plans for the statue’s assembly. He had originally expected to assemble the skin on-site as the masonry pier was built; instead he decided to build the statue in France and have it disassembled and transported to the United States for reassembly in place on Bedloe’s Island.

In a symbolic act, the first rivet placed into the skin, fixing a copper plate onto the statue’s big toe, was driven by United States Ambassador to France Levi P. Morton. The skin was not, however, crafted in exact sequence from low to high; work proceeded on a number of segments simultaneously in a manner often confusing to visitors. Some work was performed by contractors—one of the fingers was made to Bartholdi’s exacting specifications by a coppersmith in the southern French town of Montauban. By 1882, the statue was complete up to the waist, an event Barthodi celebrated by inviting reporters to lunch on a platform built within the statue. Laboulaye died in 1883. He was succeeded as chairman of the French committee by Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal. The completed statue was formally presented to Ambassador Morton at a ceremony in Paris on July 4, 1884, and de Lesseps announced that the French government had agreed to pay for its transport to New York. The statue remained intact in Paris pending sufficient progress on the pedestal; by January 1885, this had occurred and the statue was disassembled and crated for its ocean voyage.


Richard Morris Hunt’s pedestal under construction in June 1885

The committees in the United States faced great difficulties in obtaining funds for the construction of the pedestal. The Panic of 1873 had led to an economic depression that persisted through much of the decade. The Liberty statue project was not the only such undertaking that had difficulty raising money: construction of the obelisk later known as the Washington Monument sometimes stalled for years; it would ultimately take over three-and-a-half decades to complete. There was criticism both of Bartholdi’s statue and of the fact that the gift required Americans to foot the bill for the pedestal. In the years following the Civil War, most Americans preferred realistic artworks depicting heroes and events from the nation’s history, rather than allegorical works like the Liberty statue. There was also a feeling that Americans should design American public works—the selection of Italian-born Constantino Brumidi to decorate the Capitol had provoked intense criticism, even though he was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Harper’s Weekly declared its wish that “M. Bartholdi and our French cousins had ‘gone the whole figure’ while they were about it, and given us statue and pedestal at once.” The New York Times stated that “no true patriot can countenance any such expenditures for bronze females in the present state of our finances.” Faced with these criticisms, the American committees took little action for several years.



Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, June 1885, showing (clockwise from left) woodcuts of the completed statue in Paris, Bartholdi, and the statue’s interior structure

The foundation of Bartholdi’s statue was to be laid inside Fort Wood, a disused army base on Bedloe’s Island constructed between 1807 and 1811. Since 1823, it had rarely been used, though during the Civil War, it had served as a recruiting station. The fortifications of the structure were in the shape of an eleven-point star. The statue’s foundation and pedestal were aligned so that it would face southeast, greeting ships entering the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean. In 1881, the New York committee commissioned Richard Morris Hunt to design the pedestal. Within months, Hunt submitted a detailed plan, indicating that he expected construction to take about nine months. He proposed a pedestal 114 feet (35 m) in height; faced with money problems, the committee reduced that to 89 feet (27 m).

Hunt’s pedestal design contains elements of classical architecture, including Doric portals, as well as some elements influenced by Aztec architecture. The large mass is fragmented with architectural detail, in order to focus attention on the statue. In form, it is a truncated pyramid, 62 feet (19 m) square at the base and 39.4 feet (12.0 m) at the top. The four sides are identical in appearance. Above the door on each side, there are ten disks upon which Bartholdi proposed to place the coats of arms of the states (between 1876 and 1889, there were 38 U.S. states), although this was not done. Above that, a balcony was placed on each side, framed by pillars. Bartholdi placed an observation platform near the top of the pedestal, above which the statue itself rises. According to author Louis Auchincloss, the pedestal “craggily evokes the power of an ancient Europe over which rises the dominating figure of the Statue of Liberty”. The committee hired former army General Charles Pomeroy Stone to oversee the construction work. Construction on the 15-foot-deep (4.6 m) foundation began in 1883, and the pedestal’s cornerstone was laid in 1884. In Hunt’s original conception, the pedestal was to have been made of solid granite. Financial concerns again forced him to revise his plans; the final design called for poured concrete walls, up to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick, faced with granite blocks. This Stony Creek granite came from the Beattie Quarry in Branford, Connecticut. The concrete mass was the largest poured to that time.

Norwegian immigrant civil engineer Joachim Goschen Giæver designed the structural framework for the Statue of Liberty. His work involved design computations, detailed fabrication and construction drawings, and oversight of construction. In completing his engineering for the statue’s frame, Giæver worked from drawings and sketches produced by Gustave Eiffel.



Unpacking of the face of the Statue of Liberty, which was delivered on June 17, 1885

Fundraising for the statue had begun in 1882. The committee organized a large number of money-raising events. As part of one such effort, an auction of art and manuscripts, poet Emma Lazarus was asked to donate an original work. She initially declined, stating she could not write a poem about a statue. At the time, she was also involved in aiding refugees to New York who had fled anti-Semitic pogroms in eastern Europe. These refugees were forced to live in conditions that the wealthy Lazarus had never experienced. She saw a way to express her empathy for these refugees in terms of the statue. The resulting sonnet, “The New Colossus”, including the iconic lines “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, is uniquely identified with the Statue of Liberty and is inscribed on a plaque in the museum in its base.

Even with these efforts, fundraising lagged. Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, vetoed a bill to provide $50,000 for the statue project in 1884. An attempt the next year to have Congress provide $100,000, sufficient to complete the project, also failed. The New York committee, with only $3,000 in the bank, suspended work on the pedestal. With the project in jeopardy, groups from other American cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, offered to pay the full cost of erecting the statue in return for relocating it.

Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, a New York newspaper, announced a drive to raise $100,000—the equivalent of $2.3 million today. Pulitzer pledged to print the name of every contributor, no matter how small the amount given. The drive captured the imagination of New Yorkers, especially when Pulitzer began publishing the notes he received from contributors. “A young girl alone in the world” donated “60 cents, the result of self denial.” One donor gave “five cents as a poor office boy’s mite toward the Pedestal Fund.” A group of children sent a dollar as “the money we saved to go to the circus with.” Another dollar was given by a “lonely and very aged woman.” Residents of a home for alcoholics in New York’s rival city of Brooklyn—the cities would not merge until 1898—donated $15; other drinkers helped out through donation boxes in bars and saloons. A kindergarten class in Davenport, Iowa, mailed the World a gift of $1.35. As the donations flooded in, the committee resumed work on the pedestal.


On June 17, 1885, the French steamer Isère, laden with the Statue of Liberty, reached the New York port safely. New Yorkers displayed their new-found enthusiasm for the statue, as the French vessel arrived with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the Isère. After five months of daily calls to donate to the statue fund, on August 11, 1885, the World announced that $102,000 had been raised from 120,000 donors, and that 80 percent of the total had been received in sums of less than one dollar.

Even with the success of the fund drive, the pedestal was not completed until April 1886. Immediately thereafter, reassembly of the statue began. Eiffel’s iron framework was anchored to steel I-beams within the concrete pedestal and assembled. Once this was done, the sections of skin were carefully attached. Due to the width of the pedestal, it was not possible to erect scaffolding, and workers dangled from ropes while installing the skin sections. Nevertheless, no one died during the construction. Bartholdi had planned to put floodlights on the torch’s balcony to illuminate it; a week before the dedication, the Army Corps of Engineers vetoed the proposal, fearing that ships’ pilots passing the statue would be blinded. Instead, Bartholdi cut portholes in the torch—which was covered with gold leaf—and placed the lights inside them. A power plant was installed on the island to light the torch and for other electrical needs. After the skin was completed, renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer of New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, supervised a cleanup of Bedloe’s Island in anticipation of the dedication.


EdwardMoran-UnveilingTheStatueofLiberty1886Large (1)

Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World (1886) by Edward Moran. Oil on canvas. The J. Clarence Davies Collection, Museum of the City of New York.

A ceremony of dedication was held on the afternoon of October 28, 1886. President Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor, presided over the event. On the morning of the dedication, a parade was held in New York City; estimates of the number of people who watched it ranged from several hundred thousand to a million. President Cleveland headed the procession, then stood in the reviewing stand to see bands and marchers from across America. General Stone was the grand marshal of the parade. The route began at Madison Square, once the venue for the arm, and proceeded to the Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan by way of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, with a slight detour so the parade could pass in front of the World building on Park Row. As the parade passed the New York Stock Exchange, traders threw ticker tape from the windows, beginning the New York tradition of the ticker-tape parade.

A nautical parade began at 12:45 p.m., and President Cleveland embarked on a yacht that took him across the harbor to Bedloe’s Island for the dedication. De Lesseps made the first speech, on behalf of the French committee, followed by the chairman of the New York committee, Senator William M. Evarts. A French flag draped across the statue’s face was to be lowered to unveil the statue at the close of Evarts’s speech, but Bartholdi mistook a pause as the conclusion and let the flag fall prematurely. The ensuing cheers put an end to Evarts’s address. President Cleveland spoke next, stating that the statue’s “stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world”. Bartholdi, observed near the dais, was called upon to speak, but he declined. Orator Chauncey M. Depew concluded the speechmaking with a lengthy address.

No members of the general public were permitted on the island during the ceremonies, which were reserved entirely for dignitaries. The only females granted access were Bartholdi’s wife and de Lesseps’s granddaughter; officials stated that they feared women might be injured in the crush of people. The restriction offended area suffragists, who chartered a boat and got as close as they could to the island. The group’s leaders made speeches applauding the embodiment of Liberty as a woman and advocating women’s right to vote. A scheduled fireworks display was postponed until November 1 because of poor weather.

Shortly after the dedication, The Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue’s torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation “in reality”:

“Liberty enlightening the world,” indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the “liberty” of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the “liberty” of this country “enlightening the world,” or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.

After Dedication

Lighthouse Board and War Department (1886–1933)


Statue of Liberty ca. 1900


Government poster using the Statue of Liberty to promote the sale of Liberty Bonds

When the torch was illuminated on the evening of the statue’s dedication, it produced only a faint gleam, barely visible from Manhattan. The World characterized it as “more like a glowworm than a beacon.” Bartholdi suggested gilding the statue to increase its ability to reflect light, but this proved too expensive. The United States Lighthouse Board took over the Statue of Liberty in 1887 and pledged to install equipment to enhance the torch’s effect; in spite of its efforts, the statue remained virtually invisible at night. When Bartholdi returned to the United States in 1893, he made additional suggestions, all of which proved ineffective. He did successfully lobby for improved lighting within the statue, allowing visitors to better appreciate Eiffel’s design. In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt, once a member of the New York committee, ordered the statue’s transfer to the War Department, as it had proved useless as a lighthouse. A unit of the Army Signal Corps was stationed on Bedloe’s Island until 1923, after which military police remained there while the island was under military jurisdiction.

The statue rapidly became a landmark. Many immigrants who entered through New York saw it as a welcoming sight. Oral histories of immigrants record their feelings of exhilaration on first viewing the Statue of Liberty. One immigrant who arrived from Greece recalled,

I saw the Statue of Liberty. And I said to myself, “Lady, you’re such a beautiful! You opened your arms and you get all the foreigners here. Give me a chance to prove that I am worth it, to do something, to be someone in America.” And always that statue was on my mind.

Originally, the statue was a dull copper color, but shortly after 1900 a green patina, also called verdigris, caused by the oxidation of the copper skin, began to spread. As early as 1902 it was mentioned in the press; by 1906 it had entirely covered the statue. Believing that the patina was evidence of corrosion, Congress authorized US$62,800 (equivalent to $1,673,969 in 2016) for various repairs, and to paint the statue both inside and out. There was considerable public protest against the proposed exterior painting. The Army Corps of Engineers studied the patina for any ill effects to the statue and concluded that it protected the skin, “softened the outlines of the Statue and made it beautiful.” The statue was painted only on the inside. The Corps of Engineers also installed an elevator to take visitors from the base to the top of the pedestal.

On July 30, 1916, during World War I, German saboteurs set off a disastrous explosion on the Black Tom peninsula in Jersey City, New Jersey, in what is now part of Liberty State Park, close to Bedloe’s Island. Carloads of dynamite and other explosives that were being sent to Britain and France for their war efforts were detonated, and seven people were killed. The statue sustained minor damage, mostly to the torch-bearing right arm, and was closed for ten days. The cost to repair the statue and buildings on the island was about US$100,000 (equivalent to $2,200,917 in 2016). The narrow ascent to the torch was closed for public-safety reasons, and it has remained closed ever since.

That same year, Ralph Pulitzer, who had succeeded his father Joseph as publisher of the World, began a drive to raise US$30,000 (equivalent to $660,275 in 2016) for an exterior lighting system to illuminate the statue at night. He claimed over 80,000 contributors, but failed to reach the goal. The difference was quietly made up by a gift from a wealthy donor—a fact that was not revealed until 1936. An underwater power cable brought electricity from the mainland and floodlights were placed along the walls of Fort Wood. Gutzon Borglum, who later sculpted Mount Rushmore, redesigned the torch, replacing much of the original copper with stained glass. On December 2, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson pressed the telegraph key that turned on the lights, successfully illuminating the statue.

After the United States entered World War I in 1917, images of the statue were heavily used in both recruitment posters and the Liberty Bond drives that urged American citizens to support the war financially. This impressed upon the public the war’s stated purpose—to secure liberty—and served as a reminder that embattled France had given the United States the statue.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used his authority under the Antiquities Act to declare the statue a National Monument. The only successful suicide in the statue’s history occurred five years later, when a man climbed out of one of the windows in the crown and jumped to his death, glancing off the statue’s breast and landing on the base.

Early National Park Service years (1933–1982)


Bedloe’s Island in 1927, showing the statue and army buildings. The eleven-pointed walls of Fort Wood, which still form the statue’s base, are visible.

In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the statue to be transferred to the National Park Service (NPS). In 1937, the NPS gained jurisdiction over the rest of Bedloe’s Island. With the Army’s departure, the NPS began to transform the island into a park. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) demolished most of the old buildings, regraded and reseeded the eastern end of the island, and built granite steps for a new public entrance to the statue from its rear. The WPA also carried out restoration work within the statue, temporarily removing the rays from the statue’s halo so their rusted supports could be replaced. Rusted cast-iron steps in the pedestal were replaced with new ones made of reinforced concrete; the upper parts of the stairways within the statue were replaced, as well. Copper sheathing was installed to prevent further damage from rainwater that had been seeping into the pedestal. The statue was closed to the public from May until December 1938.

During World War II, the statue remained open to visitors, although it was not illuminated at night due to wartime blackouts. It was lit briefly on December 31, 1943, and on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when its lights flashed “dot-dot-dot-dash”, the Morse code for V, for victory. New, powerful lighting was installed in 1944–1945, and beginning on V-E Day, the statue was once again illuminated after sunset. The lighting was for only a few hours each evening, and it was not until 1957 that the statue was illuminated every night, all night. In 1946, the interior of the statue within reach of visitors was coated with a special plastic so that graffiti could be washed away.

In 1956, an Act of Congress officially renamed Bedloe’s Island as Liberty Island, a change advocated by Bartholdi generations earlier. The act also mentioned the efforts to found an American Museum of Immigration on the island, which backers took as federal approval of the project, though the government was slow to grant funds for it. Nearby Ellis Island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument by proclamation of President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. In 1972, the immigration museum, in the statue’s base, was finally opened in a ceremony led by President Richard Nixon. The museum’s backers never provided it with an endowment to secure its future and it closed in 1991 after the opening of an immigration museum on Ellis Island.


September 26, 1972: President Richard Nixon visits the statue to open the American Museum of Immigration. The statue’s raised right foot is visible, showing that it is depicted moving forward.

In 1970, Ivy Bottini led a demonstration at the statue where she and others from the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter draped an enormous banner over a railing which read “WOMEN OF THE WORLD UNITE!”

Beginning December 26, 1971, 15 anti-Vietnam War veterans occupied the statue, flying a US flag upside down from her crown. They left December 28 following a Federal Court order. The statue was also several times taken over briefly by demonstrators publicizing causes such as Puerto Rican independence, opposition to abortion, and opposition to US intervention in Grenada. Demonstrations with the permission of the Park Service included a Gay Pride Parade rally and the annual Captive Baltic Nations rally.

A powerful new lighting system was installed in advance of the American Bicentennial in 1976. The statue was the focal point for Operation Sail, a regatta of tall ships from all over the world that entered New York Harbor on July 4, 1976, and sailed around Liberty Island. The day concluded with a spectacular display of fireworks near the statue.

Renovation and rededication (1982–2000)


July 4, 1986: First Lady Nancy Reagan (in red) reopens the statue to the public.

The statue was examined in great detail by French and American engineers as part of the planning for its centennial in 1986. In 1982, it was announced that the statue was in need of considerable restoration. Careful study had revealed that the right arm had been improperly attached to the main structure. It was swaying more and more when strong winds blew and there was a significant risk of structural failure. In addition, the head had been installed 2 feet (0.61 m) off center, and one of the rays was wearing a hole in the right arm when the statue moved in the wind. The armature structure was badly corroded, and about two percent of the exterior plates needed to be replaced. Although problems with the armature had been recognized as early as 1936, when cast iron replacements for some of the bars had been installed, much of the corrosion had been hidden by layers of paint applied over the years.

In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan announced the formation of the Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Centennial Commission, led by Chrysler Corporation chair Lee Iacocca, to raise the funds needed to complete the work. Through its fundraising arm, the Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., the group raised more than $350 million in donations. The Statue of Liberty was one of the earliest beneficiaries of a cause marketing campaign. A 1983 promotion advertised that for each purchase made with an American Express card, the company would contribute one cent to the renovation of the statue. The campaign generated contributions of $1.7 million to the restoration project.

In 1984, the statue was closed to the public for the duration of the renovation. Workers erected the world’s largest free-standing scaffold, which obscured the statue from view. Liquid nitrogen was used to remove layers of paint that had been applied to the interior of the copper skin over decades, leaving two layers of coal tar, originally applied to plug leaks and prevent corrosion. Blasting with baking soda powder removed the tar without further damaging the copper. The restorers’ work was hampered by the asbestos-based substance that Bartholdi had used—ineffectively, as inspections showed—to prevent galvanic corrosion. Workers within the statue had to wear protective gear, dubbed “moon suits”, with self-contained breathing circuits. Larger holes in the copper skin were repaired, and new copper was added where necessary. The replacement skin was taken from a copper rooftop at Bell Labs, which had a patina that closely resembled the statue’s; in exchange, the laboratory was provided some of the old copper skin for testing. The torch, found to have been leaking water since the 1916 alterations, was replaced with an exact replica of Bartholdi’s unaltered torch. Consideration was given to replacing the arm and shoulder; the National Park Service insisted that they be repaired instead. The original torch was removed and replaced in 1986 with the current one, whose flame is covered in 24-carat gold. The torch reflects the sun’s rays in daytime and is lighted by floodlights at night.


Liberty Enlightening the World

The entire puddled iron armature designed by Gustave Eiffel was replaced. Low-carbon corrosion-resistant stainless steel bars that now hold the staples next to the skin are made of Ferralium, an alloy that bends slightly and returns to its original shape as the statue moves. To prevent the ray and arm making contact, the ray was realigned by several degrees. The lighting was again replaced—night-time illumination subsequently came from metal-halide lamps that send beams of light to particular parts of the pedestal or statue, showing off various details. Access to the pedestal, which had been through a nondescript entrance built in the 1960s, was renovated to create a wide opening framed by a set of monumental bronze doors with designs symbolic of the renovation. A modern elevator was installed, allowing handicapped access to the observation area of the pedestal. An emergency elevator was installed within the statue, reaching up to the level of the shoulder.

July 3–6, 1986, was designated “Liberty Weekend”, marking the centennial of the statue and its reopening. President Reagan presided over the rededication, with French President François Mitterrand in attendance. July 4 saw a reprise of Operation Sail, and the statue was reopened to the public on July 5. In Reagan’s dedication speech, he stated, “We are the keepers of the flame of liberty; we hold it high for the world to see.”

Closures and Reopenings (2001–Present)


The Statue of Liberty on September 11, 2001 as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center burn in the background

Following the September 11 attacks, the statue and Liberty Island were immediately closed to the public. The island reopened at the end of 2001, while the pedestal and statue remained off-limits. The pedestal reopened in August 2004, but the National Park Service announced that visitors could not safely be given access to the statue due to the difficulty of evacuation in an emergency. The Park Service adhered to that position through the remainder of the Bush administration. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner made the statue’s reopening a personal crusade. On May 17, 2009, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that as a “special gift” to America, the statue would be reopened to the public as of July 4, but that only a limited number of people would be permitted to ascend to the crown each day.

The statue, including the pedestal and base, closed on October 29, 2011, for installation of new elevators and staircases and to bring other facilities, such as restrooms, up to code. The statue was reopened on October 28, 2012, only to close again a day later due to Hurricane Sandy. Although the storm did not harm the statue, it destroyed some of the infrastructure on both Liberty Island and Ellis Island, severely damaging the dock used by the ferries bearing visitors to the statue. On November 8, 2012, a Park Service spokesperson announced that both islands would remain closed for an indefinite period for repairs to be done. Due to lack of electricity on Liberty Island, a generator was installed to power temporary floodlights to illuminate the statue at night. The superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument, David Luchsinger, whose home on the island was severely damaged, stated that it would be “optimistically … months” before the island was reopened to the public. The statue and Liberty Island reopened to the public on July 4, 2013. Ellis Island remained closed for repairs for several more months but reopened in late October 2013. For part of October 2013, Liberty Island was closed to the public due to the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, along with other federally funded museums, parks, monuments, construction projects and buildings.

On October 7, 2016, construction started on a new Statue of Liberty museum on Liberty Island. The new $70 million, 26,000-square-foot (2,400 m2) museum will be able to accommodate all of the island’s visitors when it opens in 2019, as opposed to the current museum, which only 20% of the island’s visitors can visit. The original torch will be relocated here, and in addition to exhibits relating to the statue’s construction and history, there will be a theater where visitors can watch an aerial view of the statue. The museum, designed by FXFOWLE Architects, will integrate with the parkland around it. It is being funded privately by Diane von Fürstenberg, Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, Coca-Cola, NBCUniversal, the family of Laurence Tisch and Preston Robert Tisch, Mellody Hobson, and George Lucas. Von Fürstenberg heads the fundraising for the museum, and the project had garnered more than $40 million in fundraising as of groundbreaking.

Access and Attributes

Location and Tourism


Tourists aboard a Circle Line ferry arriving at Liberty Island, June 1973

The statue is situated in Upper New York Bay on Liberty Island south of Ellis Island, which together comprise the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Both islands were ceded by New York to the federal government in 1800. As agreed in an 1834 compact between New York and New Jersey that set the state border at the bay’s midpoint, the original islands remain New York territory despite their location on the New Jersey side of the state line. Liberty Island is one of the islands that are part of the borough of Manhattan in New York. Land created by reclamation added to the 2.3 acres (0.93 ha) original island at Ellis Island is New Jersey territory.

No charge is made for entrance to the national monument, but there is a cost for the ferry service that all visitors must use, as private boats may not dock at the island. A concession was granted in 2007 to Statue Cruises to operate the transportation and ticketing facilities, replacing Circle Line, which had operated the service since 1953. The ferries, which depart from Liberty State Park in Jersey City and Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, also stop at Ellis Island when it is open to the public, making a combined trip possible. All ferry riders are subject to security screening, similar to airport procedures, prior to boarding. Visitors intending to enter the statue’s base and pedestal must obtain a complimentary museum/pedestal ticket along with their ferry ticket. Those wishing to climb the staircase within the statue to the crown purchase a special ticket, which may be reserved up to a year in advance. A total of 240 people per day are permitted to ascend: ten per group, three groups per hour. Climbers may bring only medication and cameras—lockers are provided for other items—and must undergo a second security screening.

Inscriptions, Plaques, and Dedications


The Statue of Liberty stands on Liberty Island.

There are several plaques and dedicatory tablets on or near the Statue of Liberty.

  • A plaque on the copper just under the figure in front declares that it is a colossal statue representing Liberty, designed by Bartholdi and built by the Paris firm of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie (Cie is the French abbreviation analogous to Co.).
  • A presentation tablet, also bearing Bartholdi’s name, declares the statue is a gift from the people of the Republic of France that honors “the Alliance of the two Nations in achieving the Independence of the United States of America and attests their abiding friendship.”
  • A tablet placed by the New York committee commemorates the fundraising done to build the pedestal.
  • The cornerstone bears a plaque placed by the Freemasons.
  • In 1903, a bronze tablet that bears the text of Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, “The New Colossus” (1883), was presented by friends of the poet. Until the 1986 renovation, it was mounted inside the pedestal; today it resides in the Statue of Liberty Museum, in the base.
  • “The New Colossus” tablet is accompanied by a tablet given by the Emma Lazarus Commemorative Committee in 1977, celebrating the poet’s life.

A group of statues stands at the western end of the island, honoring those closely associated with the Statue of Liberty. Two Americans—Pulitzer and Lazarus—and three Frenchmen—Bartholdi, Eiffel, and Laboulaye—are depicted. They are the work of Maryland sculptor Phillip Ratner.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The UNESCO “Statement of Significance” describes the statue as a “masterpiece of the human spirit” that “endures as a highly potent symbol—inspiring contemplation, debate and protest—of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy and opportunity.”

Physical Characteristics

Opera Snapshot_2017-11-17_203845_en.wikipedia.org


As viewed from the ground on Liberty Island



A replica of the Statue of Liberty forms part of the exterior decor at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip

Hundreds of replicas of the Statue of Liberty are displayed worldwide. A smaller version of the statue, one-fourth the height of the original, was given by the American community in Paris to that city. It now stands on the Île aux Cygnes, facing west toward her larger sister. A replica 30 feet (9.1 m) tall stood atop the Liberty Warehouse on West 64th Street in Manhattan for many years; it now resides at the Brooklyn Museum. In a patriotic tribute, the Boy Scouts of America, as part of their Strengthen the Arm of Liberty campaign in 1949–1952, donated about two hundred replicas of the statue, made of stamped copper and 100 inches (2,500 mm) in height, to states and municipalities across the United States. Though not a true replica, the statue known as the Goddess of Democracy temporarily erected during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 was similarly inspired by French democratic traditions—the sculptors took care to avoid a direct imitation of the Statue of Liberty. Among other recreations of New York City structures, a replica of the statue is part of the exterior of the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.


Head of Liberty, U.S. airmail stamp, 1971 issue


Reverse side of a Presidential Dollar coin

As an American icon, the Statue of Liberty has been depicted on the country’s coinage and stamps. It appeared on commemorative coins issued to mark its 1986 centennial, and on New York’s 2001 entry in the state quarters series. An image of the statue was chosen for the American Eagle platinum bullion coins in 1997, and it was placed on the reverse, or tails, side of the Presidential Dollar series of circulating coins. Two images of the statue’s torch appear on the current ten-dollar bill. The statue’s intended photographic depiction on a 2010 forever stamp proved instead to be of the replica at the Las Vegas casino.

Depictions of the statue have been used by many regional institutions. Between 1986 and 2000, New York State issued license plates with an outline of the statue to either the front or the side of the serial number. The Women’s National Basketball Association’s New York Liberty use both the statue’s name and its image in their logo, in which the torch’s flame doubles as a basketball. The New York Rangers of the National Hockey League depicted the statue’s head on their third jersey, beginning in 1997. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s 1996 Men’s Basketball Final Four, played at New Jersey’s Meadowlands Sports Complex, featured the statue in its logo. The Libertarian Party of the United States uses the statue in its emblem.

The statue is a frequent subject in popular culture. In music, it has been evoked to indicate support for American policies, as in Toby Keith’s song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)”, and in opposition, appearing on the cover of the Dead Kennedys’ album Bedtime for Democracy, which protested the Reagan administration. In film, the torch is the setting for the climax of director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1942 movie Saboteur. The statue makes one of its most famous cinematic appearances in the 1968 picture Planet of the Apes, in which it is seen half-buried in sand. It is knocked over in the science-fiction film Independence Day and in Cloverfield the head is ripped off. In Jack Finney’s time-travel novel Time and Again, the right arm of the statue, on display in the early 1880s in Madison Square Park, plays a crucial role. Robert Holdstock, consulting editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, wondered in 1979,

Where would science fiction be without the Statue of Liberty? For decades it has towered or crumbled above the wastelands of deserted arth—giants have uprooted it, aliens have found it curious … the symbol of Liberty, of optimism, has become a symbol of science fiction’s pessimistic view of the future.

List of the Tallest Statues in the United States

This list of the tallest statues in the United States ranks free-standing statues based on their height from base to top. The list also includes novelty architecture, (which are not statues).

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Statues over 12.2 m (40 ft)

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Statues between 6.1 and 12.2 m (20 and 40 ft)

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Statues under 6.1 m (20 ft)

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Dumbarton Bridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dumbarton Bridge (California)


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The Dumbarton Bridge is the southernmost of the highway bridges across San Francisco Bay in California. Carrying over 81,000 vehicles daily, it is the shortest bridge across San Francisco Bay at 1.63 miles (8,600 ft; 2,620 m). Its eastern end is in Fremont, near Newark in the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and its western end is in Menlo Park. Bridging State Route 84 across the bay, it has three lanes each way and a separated bike/pedestrian lane along its south side. Like the San Mateo Bridge to the north, power lines parallel the bridge.

1 Tolls
2 Environmental factors
3 History and engineering features
4 Roadway Connections
5 Dumbarton Rail Bridge
6 Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct


Tolls are only collected from westbound traffic at the toll plaza on the east side of the bay. Since July 2010, the toll rate for passenger cars is $5. For vehicles with more than two axles, the toll rate is $5 per axle. Drivers may either pay by cash or use the FasTrak electronic toll collection device. There are seven toll lanes at the plaza. During peak traffic hours, the leftmost lane is designated a FasTrak-only HOV lane, allowing carpool vehicles carrying two or more people or motorcycles to pass for a toll of $2.50. The next two leftmost lanes are FasTrak-only lanes for all vehicles, and all other lanes accept both cash and FasTrak. During non-peak hours the HOV lane is open to vehicles carrying only one person, but remains FasTrak-only.

Environmental Factors

When the current bridge was planned in the 1970s, Caltrans conducted extensive environmental research on the aquatic and terrestrial environment. Principal concerns of the public were air pollution and noise pollution impacts, particularly in some residential areas of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. Studies were conducted to produce contour maps of projected sound levels and carbon monoxide concentrations throughout the western approaches, for each alternative connection scheme.

The area around the bridge is an important ecological area, hosting many species of birds, fish and mammals. The endangered species California clapper rail is known to be present in the western bridge terminus area.

Near the bridge on the Peninsula are Menlo Park’s Bayfront Park, East Palo Alto’s Ravenswood Open Space Preserve, and the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve. An accessible portion of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge lies immediately north of the western bridge terminus, where the Ravenswood trail runs.

On both sides of the east end of the bridge are large salt ponds and levee trails belonging to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The headquarters and visitor center for the refuge is on a hill south of the bridge approach. North of the east end of the bridge is Coyote Hills Regional Park, with its network of trails running over tall hills. North of that is the Alameda Creek Regional Trail from the Bay to Niles Canyon. East of Coyote Hills is Ardenwood Historic Farm, a restored working farm that preserves and displays turn-of-the-century farming methods

History and Engineering Features


The original vertical-lift span of the Dumbarton Bridge, shown in 1984 shortly before it was demolished

The bridge has never been officially named, but its commonly used name comes from Dumbarton Point, named in 1876 after Dumbarton, Scotland. Built originally to provide a shortcut for traffic originating in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, the bridge served industrial and residential areas on both sides. The earlier bridge opened on January 17, 1927 and was the first vehicular bridge to cross San Francisco Bay. A portion of this old drawbridge remains as a fishing pier on the east side of the Bay. The original bridge was built with private capital and then purchased by the state for $2.5 million in 1951.

Its age and the two-lane undivided roadway and lift-span led to a replacement bridge, built to the north. This bridge opened in October 1982 as a four-lane, high-level structure. The structure was re-striped to accommodate six lanes on October 18, 1989 in response to the temporary closing of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge due to the Loma Prieta earthquake, and the permanent widening of the approaches was completed by July 2003. The cost of the complete replacement project was $200 million. The current bridge includes a two-way bicycle and separate pedestrian path on the south-facing side. A 340 ft (104 m) center span provides 85 ft (26 m) of vertical clearance for shipping. The approach spans on both sides of the Bay are of pre-stressed lightweight concrete girders supporting a lightweight concrete deck. The center spans are twin steel trapezoidal girders which also support a lightweight concrete deck. In 1970 the movie Harold and Maude was filmed at the toll plaza and showed Maude speeding and disobeying a police officer.

The center span of the original bridge was demolished in a controlled explosion in September 1984.


A view from the air, above Palo Alto, looking towards Fremont

Roadway Connections

The bridge is part of State Route 84, and is directly connected to Interstate 880 by a freeway segment north of the Fremont end. There is no freeway connection between U.S. 101 and the southwest end of the Dumbarton Bridge. Motorists must traverse one of three at-grade routes to connect from the Bayshore Freeway to the bridge. These are (from northwest to southeast):

  1. the Bayfront Expressway, a limited-access road linking to U.S. 101 at Marsh Road, Atherton (the official routing of SR 84)
  2. Willow Road (SR 114), an approximately one-mile expressway through east Menlo Park to U.S. 101
  3. University Avenue (SR 109), an arterial road and the main commercial street of East Palo Alto.

The Willow Road and University Avenue junctions with Bayfront Expressway are at-grade intersections controlled by traffic lights; there are two additional controlled intersections at Chilco Road and Marsh Road, and the Marsh Road interchange on U.S. 101 is a parclo. The result is that Bayfront Expressway is frequently congested, and when not congested is often the site of high-speed car crashes. In 2007, prominent author David Halberstam was killed in one such crash at the Willow Road intersection.

Access to I-280 is available via State Route 84 to Woodside Road (as signed) or other arterial routes. There are no cross-Peninsula freeway connections between State Routes 92 and 85 (which is so far south that it technically lies in Silicon Valley and not on the Peninsula). In addition, there are no direct cross-Peninsula arterial routes between State Route 84 and Page Mill Road, a five-mile gap.

Although the present situation has resulted in severe traffic problems on the bridge itself and in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, Caltrans has been unable to upgrade the relevant portion of Highway 84 to freeway standards for several decades, due to opposition from the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton and Palo Alto. Freeway opponents fear that upgrading Highway 84 will encourage more people to live in southern Alameda County (where housing is more affordable) and commute to jobs in the mid-Peninsula area (where businesses wish to be located in order to be close to Silicon Valley), thus increasing traffic in their neighborhoods to the south and west of U.S. 101.

Bus service across the bridge is provided by the Dumbarton Express, run by a consortium of local transit agencies (SamTrans, AC Transit, VTA and others) which connects to BART at Union City and Caltrain at Palo Alto and California Avenue. AC Transit also runs Transbay buses U (Fremont BART and Amtrak to Stanford) and DA (Ardenwood to Oracle and Facebook headquarters) across the bridge. The free Stanford Marguerite Shuttle also runs buses AE-F and EB across the bridge.

Dumbarton Rail Bridge


Dumbarton Rail Bridge 2007 (seen from a kayak)

Just to the south of the car bridge lies the Dumbarton Rail Bridge. Built in 1910, the rail bridge has been unused since 1982 and its western approach collapsed in a fire in 1998. When the bridge was in use, boaters would signal the operator, who would start a diesel engine and rotate the bridge to the open position on a large gear. The bridge is now left in the open position as shown. There are plans for a new rail bridge and rehabilitation of the rail line to serve a commuter rail service to connect Union City, Fremont, and Newark to various Peninsula destinations. A successful March 2004 regional transportation ballot measure included funding to rehabilitate the rail bridge for the commuter rail service, but in October 2008 the Metropolitan Transportation Commission transferred $91 million from this project to the BART Warm Springs Extension Project in Fremont.

Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct

Between the Dumbarton Bridge and the Dumbarton Rail Bridge is the Bay crossing of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct. The aqueduct rises above ground in Newark at the east side of the Bay, falls below the water’s surface at a pump station in Fremont, re-emerges in the middle of the Bay and then continues above water until it reaches the west side of the Bay at Menlo Park.

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San Mateo–Hayward Bridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Aerial view of the San Mateo–Hayward Bridge, with Foster City in the foreground


San Francisco Bay Bridges

San Mateo–Hayward Bridge

The San Mateo–Hayward Bridge (commonly called the San Mateo Bridge) is a bridge crossing the U.S. state of California’s San Francisco Bay, linking the San Francisco Peninsula with the East Bay. The bridge’s western end is in Foster City, a suburb on the eastern edge of San Mateo. The eastern end of the bridge is in Hayward. It is the longest bridge in California and the 25th longest in the world by length. The bridge is owned by the state of California, and is maintained by Caltrans, the state highway agency. Further oversight is provided by the Bay Area Toll Authority.

The bridge is part of State Route 92, whose western terminus is at the town of Half Moon Bay on the Pacific coast. It links Interstate 880 in the East Bay with U.S. Route 101 on the Peninsula. It is roughly parallel to and lies between the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and the Dumbarton Bridge, and is sometimes used by commuters to avoid traffic delays due to emergencies on those bridges.

1 History and description
1.1 1929 original bridge
1.2 1967 orthotropic bridge
1.3 Upgrades and repairs
1.3.1 Seismic upgrades (1997–2000)
1.3.2 Widening (2002–2003)
1.3.3 Seismic beam (2010–2012)
1.3.4 Repaving (2015)
1.4 Werder Pier
2 Tolls

History and Description

1929 Original Bridge

The San Francisco Bay Toll-Bridge Company issued US$4,500,000 (equivalent to $62,000,000 in 2016) in bonds to raise a portion of the estimated US$7,500,000 (equivalent to $103,400,000 in 2016) budget required to build the first bridge. First-year operating revenues were anticipated to be US$868,469 (equivalent to $11,974,000 in 2016), but the original bridge lost money in its first year of operation.

The original bridge, known as the San Francisco Bay toll bridge, opened on 2 March 1929 after approximately a year of construction. It was a privately owned venture and was then the longest bridge in the world. The original bridge was mostly a two-lane causeway trestle with five 300-foot (91 m) truss spans in the center incorporating a vertical lift over the main shipping channel. Clearance when the lift was down to allow road traffic over the bridge was 35 feet (11 m), and clearance with the lift up to allow marine traffic to pass the bridge was 135 feet (41 m).

The original drawbridge played a minor role in the history of the Stanford Axe. When Stanford students stole the Axe back from Cal in April 1930, the getaway car was presumed to be traveling the shortest route, which would be over the bridge, and pursuing Cal students gave chase. The operator on duty, who was a graduate student at Stanford, learned that Cal students were causing the increased traffic in pursuit of the Axe, so he raised the draw and stopped traffic. In fact, the getaway car was traveling back to Palo Alto via San Jose.

Although the initial press was favorable, daily traffic fell from the opening months and never exceeded 2,000 cars per day until 1947. The State of California purchased the bridge on 12 September 1951 for US$6,000,000 (equivalent to $55,400,000 in 2016). By 1955, traffic exceeded 9,000 cars per day,] and in 1957, traffic was stopped an average of six times per day to allow ship traffic to pass the bridge. The bridge originally had pole lights along the entire stretch, which were later abandoned except over the vertical lift span. Traffic on the bridge increased from 3,000 cars per day in 1929 to 56,000 cars per day in 1968. Before the new bridge was complete, California put the original truss spans up for sale in 1965, with the buyer obligated to remove all five truss spans after completion of the 1967 bridge.

1967 Orthotropic Bridge

With increased road and marine traffic, a bill was introduced in 1961 by State Senator Richard J. Dolwig to fund a new fixed high-level bridge to replace the 1929 lift-bridge. The modern span, which began construction on 17 July 1961, opened for traffic in 1967 at a cost of US$70,000,000 (equivalent to $503,000,000 in 2016). The originally designed upgrade would retain the existing lift span (along with the attendant delays due to passing ship traffic), adding a second deck to the truss spans and widening the existing trestles to four lanes, but the California Toll Bridge Authority added US$30,000,000 (equivalent to $240,400,000 in 2016) to the project budget in September 1961 to replace the existing lift span with a fixed high-level double-deck span, which would have been similar in appearance to the nearby 1956 Richmond–San Rafael Bridge.

By that time, prior phases of the project had already been awarded to relocate the toll plaza from San Mateo to Hayward on new fill and bids were taken for the new eastern trestle, with trestle construction awarded to Peter Kiewit Sons’. The finished single-deck design was not finalized until January 1962, with work initially estimated to complete in 1965.

The new span won two prizes in 1968: an ASCE Award for Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement and an American Institute of Steel Construction long-span prize bridge award.

William Stephen Allen was retained as an architectural consultant, although the bridge was designed by the Bay Toll Crossings Division (under Chief Engineer Norman C. Raab) of the California Department of Public Works. Chuck Seim, one of the design engineers working for Bay Toll Crossings, would later credit Allan Temko’s criticism of Raab’s economical truss design for the Richmond–San Rafael crossing for generating sufficient public pressure to drive the single-deck design. Temko’s article quoted Tung-Yen Lin as being against a repeat of the Richmond–San Rafael design, but Lin ultimately gave Temko the credit for the design. Raab retired and his successor, E.R. “Mike” Foley, was willing to incorporate aesthetic considerations, resulting in the final design. The western highrise span features an all-steel superstructure, with an orthotropic deck over two parallel box girders, following the construction of several smaller test bridges using the same orthotropic deck technology. It was the first large-scale use of an orthotropic deck, which reduces weight, and thus seismic loading, although the bridge is expected to receive moderate to major damage following an earthquake.

Murphy Pacific Marine built the Marine Boss floating barge-crane in 1966 with a 500-short-ton (454 t) capacity to perform the heavy box girder and deck-section lifts. The heavy lift capacity of Marine Boss enabled Murphy Pacific to raise much longer prefabricated girders than existing barge cranes would have allowed. Box girder and deck sections were fabricated in Murphy Pacific’s Richmond yard and were carried by Marine Boss to the bridge construction site. Marine Boss was sold for scrap in 1988 to Weeks Marine in New Jersey, who renamed it the Weeks 533 and refurbished it. Weeks 533 has since been used for several notable heavy lifts, including moving the Concorde and Enterprise onto the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and lifting the downed hull of US Airways Flight 1549 from the Hudson River.


The highrise section of the San Mateo-Hayward bridge (1967 span).

The total length of the bridge is 7 miles (11.3 km), which is made up of a western 1.9-mile (3.1 km) highrise section and an eastern 5.1 miles (8.2 km) trestle section. 425,000 cubic yards (324,936 m3) of fill were used at the Hayward end to reclaim land for placing the toll plaza and administrative buildings. The eastern trestle span was built on 4,840 prestressed hollow concrete piles, each 60–90 feet (18–27 m) long. The contractor built a casting yard in Richmond to produce the concrete piles continuously. The new eastern trestle span was completed in 1963 and traffic over the existing 1929 bridge was moved over to it.

Work on the western highrise span was bid in October 1964 and commenced in 1965. It crosses a shipping channel, with an orthotropic main span that is 750 feet (229 m) long (at the time, the longest girder span in the United States) and has a vertical clearance of 135 feet (41 m). The main span is flanked by two orthotropic back spans which are each 375 feet (114 m) long, and there are seven orthotropic side spans on the approach to each back span. Each of these side spans are 292 feet (89 m) long. Although these spans appear to be formed from continuous box girders, they consist of alternating anchor spans and suspended spans. Anchor spans rest on top of two adjacent piers and cantilever over each side slightly, and suspended spans are hung between the ends of two adjacent anchor spans. There are an additional nine 208-foot (63 m) steel spans carrying a concrete deck on the San Mateo side of the highrise, and ten steel spans carrying a concrete deck on the Hayward side, ranging from 186–208 feet (57–63 m). The bridge carries about 93,000 cars and other vehicles on a typical day, almost double its original projected design capacity of 50,000 vehicles per day.

The steel deck of the bridge, approximately 418,000 square feet (38,833 m2), was paved with an epoxy asphalt concrete wearing surface in two layers. The San Mateo Bridge was the first deployment of an epoxy asphalt concrete wearing surface. As of 2005, the original wearing surface was still in use, but was subsequently replaced in 2015.

The highrise section was initially built with six lanes and the eastern causeway with four lanes (two in each direction). The causeway section was a perennial traffic bottleneck until it was expanded to six lanes in 2002, along with much needed improvements in its connections with Interstate 880 in Hayward.

Bus service over the bridge is provided by AC Transit’s Line M Transbay service.

San Mateo-Hayward Bridge


San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (1967), showing some of the electric transmission towers paralleling the bridge route and Werder Pier (at left)

High-voltage power lines built by PG&E in the 1950s parallel the bridge all the way across the bay. They provide power to the peninsula and San Francisco.

Upgrades and repairs

Seismic upgrades (1997–2000)

The bridge was closed in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake as a precaution, but reopened on 18 October 1989. It underwent an extensive seismic retrofitting from 1997 through 2000 to protect against earthquake damage.

Widening (2002–2003)

The bridge was considered the worst evening commute in the Bay Area, which ended with the completion of a new eastern trestle carrying westbound bridge traffic in 2002. Eastbound bridge traffic took over the old trestle completely, although eastbound traffic was not expanded to three lanes until February 2003. Funded as part of BATA’s regional Measure (RM) 1 program, which raised bridge tolls, the new low-rise trestle portion of the bridge added 10 feet (3.0 m) shoulders on both sides in both directions and effectively widened traffic from four to six lanes, matching the configuration of the high-rise portion of the bridge. With the completion of the new westbound trestle, the speed limit on the bridge was raised to 65 miles per hour (105 km/h).

Seismic beam (2010–2012)

A beam, which had been added as part of the seismic retrofit project, was found in a cracked condition during a routine inspection in October 2010. The beam, which was on the westbound approach to (east of) the highrise section, was patched with a steel plate as an emergency repair, and permanent repairs, requiring a weekend shutdown, were completed two years later.

Repaving (2015)

After nearly forty years of service from the original orthotropic deck wearing surface, Myers and Sons Construction, a partnership between C. C. Myers and Sterling Construction Company, was the selected bidder to remove and replace the wearing surface on the highrise portion in 2015. The work required two full weekend closures on 8–11 May 2015 and 22–25 May 2015. The new polyester concrete wearing surface, developed by Caltrans and used to great success in other Bay Area bridges, is anticipated to be at least as durable as the original epoxy asphalt concrete, according to laboratory tests conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The bridge was closed to traffic, for the first time since opening, starting at 10pm on Friday, May 8, 2015, for resurfacing and maintenance. The bridge reopened before 4am on Monday, May 11, 2015. It closed again for the final phase over Memorial Day weekend, May 22–25, 2015, fully reopening by 4:55am on May 25.

Werder Pier


Werder Pier, the remnant of the original 1929 western trestle span

After the new bridge was built, the old bridge was demolished but the western approach (the trestle span up to the original truss spans) was purchased by the County of San Mateo in 1968 for the nominal sum of US$10 (equivalent to $70 in 2016) and retained as the 4,055 feet (1,236 m) Werder Fishing Pier, which was known as one of the best places to catch sharks in San Francisco Bay. San Mateo County operated Werder Pier under a lease agreement with Caltrans, which stated that Caltrans may temporarily revoke the lease in order to perform use the pier as a staging area for repairs to the 1967 span, and that San Mateo County must maintain the pier and keep it open for public use for twenty-five years.

Werder Pier was closed to the public in 1996, when Caltrans used it as an equipment staging area for the seismic retrofit of the 1967 span. In addition, there were liability concerns since the pier’s structure had degraded due to exposure to marine elements. A report was prepared for the County in 2004; the cost of rehabilitating the pier and providing some improvements was estimated at up to US$7,200,000 (equivalent to $9,100,000 in 2016), depending on a more detailed evaluation of the pier’s condition, since the investigation for the report revealed numerous cracks, spalls and exposed reinforcing steel. However, the report also stated the pier did not require any seismic retrofitting.

As of 2013 ownership of the parking lot and land access to the pier was transferred to Foster City. Initial concepts for the newly acquired space included a possible ice rink and ferry terminal, but the land was deemed too environmentally sensitive to support high-intensity use. The park carried an interim name of Werder Park, and was dedicated as Bridgeview Park for a grand opening on June 27, 2015.


Tolls are only collected from westbound traffic at the toll plaza on the east side of the bridge. Since July 2010, the toll rate for passenger cars is $5. For vehicles with more than two axles, the toll rate is $5 per axle. Drivers may either pay by cash or use the FasTrak electronic toll collection device. During peak traffic hours, the two left lanes are designated HOV lanes, allowing carpool vehicles carrying two or more people or motorcycles to pass for a toll of $2.50. The next three lanes are FasTrak-only lanes. During non-peak hours the two HOV lanes become FasTrak-only lanes.

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New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opens at last

New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opens at last to replace the one damaged in 1989 earthquake after 12 YEARS of construction

  • The $6.4 billion bridge is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period
  • The new span replaces a structure that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake
  • Officers led a line of drivers across the bridge at about 10:15 p.m. Monday, some seven hours before the planned 5 a.m. Tuesday opening
  • After years of delays and cost overruns, the opening of one of the state’s most expensive public works projects was marked with a relatively low-key event that did not even include the governor

By Associated Press Reporter
PUBLISHED: 16:06 GMT, 3 September 2013 | UPDATED: 23:33 GMT, 3 September 2013


The new $6.4billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has been opened to traffic after years of delays and cost overruns, carrying its first drivers across the bay late Monday night just hours before the beginning of the work week.

The reopening came after the California Highway Patrol conducted a final security check and toll takers resumed their positions following a five-day closure as crews completed striping, railing and other final details on the new gleaming white span.

Cars began lining up hours earlier in an attempt to be among the first on the new span, and CHP officers led a line of drivers across at about 10:15 p.m., some seven hours before the 5 a.m. Tuesday reopening that was estimated before the closure.


A group of police officers cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge after leading a procession marking the east span’s opening, in San Francisco on Sept. 2


Police motorcycles ride across the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on September 2. The span took nearly 12 years to build


At a modest inaugural ceremony, the new, self-anchored suspension bridge with its looming, single white tower was praised as a dramatic safety upgrade over its predecessor and a beautiful example of public art


The new eastern span (left) of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge stands next to the older span (right). San Francisco Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom cut a chain with a blow torch to mark the opening


Open road: Traffic flows across the new eastern span of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge on Tuesday

At a modest inaugural ceremony, the new, self-anchored suspension bridge with its looming, single white tower was praised as a dramatic safety upgrade over its predecessor and a beautiful example of public art.

‘I hope this is more than just connecting two land masses,’ said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. ‘I hope that the progress that’s being represented at this moment is for a generation to dream big dreams and to do big things.’US grandmother Diana Nyad, 64, tells how she pushed through…

Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, cut a chain with a blow torch to mark the opening after leading those gathered around the bridge’s toll plaza in a countdown to the reopening.

There was no public celebration with tens of thousands of pedestrians and fireworks as originally planned. Instead, after years of delays and cost overruns, the opening of one of the state’s most expensive public works projects was marked with a relatively low-key event that did not even include the governor.

The new span replaces a structure that was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period.


The largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world opened before Tuesday morning’s rush hour across San Francisco Bay, six years behind schedule and five times over budget


The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge is illuminated. The new section of bridge has been under construction for nearly 12 years and follows years of political bickering, engineering challenges and cost overruns


Vehicles drive on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco, California on September 2, 2013

‘Despite the journey’s length, it has been completed before the arrival of our next big earthquake,’ said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. ‘And thank goodness for that.’

Heminger was among numerous officials who spoke at the event, which included a poem about the bridge by California’s poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera.

‘(This project) has at times inspired me, challenged me, frustrated me and today, after seeing the final product, it impresses me with its beauty, its grace and its strength,’ said Brian Kelly, who heads the state’s Business, Transportation & Housing Agency.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who was closely involved in planning the bridge when he was mayor of Oakland, was out of town and unable to attend the ceremony, said his spokesman, Evan Westrup.

The entire bridge closed Wednesday night so crews could do final work, and they were still striping, putting up signs and putting down roadway markers Monday, said bridge spokesman Andrew Gordon. Some barrier railing also needed to be installed.

The new section of bridge has been under construction for almost a decade and follows years of political bickering, engineering challenges and cost overruns.


This photo shot on October 22, 1989 shows a collapsed portion of the Bay Bridge after the earthquake that rocked northern California


The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is pictured on October 28, 2009. The span was indefinitely closed after a set of cables snapped


Fireboats spray water during ceremonies beside the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Jan. 29, 2002, as construction was set to begin on the new span of the bridge


The western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is pictured in April 1984

James Ghielmetti, a member of the California Transportation Commission, said at Monday’s ceremony that the bridge should not have taken so long to go up.

‘California must do a better job going forward on all of our public works projects,’ he said.

In March, more than two dozen rods used to anchor the roadway to important earthquake safety structures cracked after they were tightened. The discovery threatened to delay the bridge’s opening by months.

The bridge will open with a temporary fix for the broken rods while the permanent repair, expected to be completed in December, is being installed.

Transportation officials approved the temporary fix last month and voted to open the bridge as originally planned around the Labor Day weekend.

But Gordon said Monday that there was not enough time for a public celebration.

Plans for such a celebration originally called for a bridge walk with more than 100,000 people, fireworks, a half marathon and a concert.

Opera Snapshot_2017-11-04_210756_www.dailymail.co.uk

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Bay Bridge

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San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge 



The western section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge

The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge (known locally as the Bay Bridge) is a complex of bridges spanning San Francisco Bay in California. As part of Interstate 80 and the direct road between San Francisco and Oakland, it carries about 260,000 vehicles a day on its two decks. It has one of the longest spans in the United States.

The toll bridge was conceived as early as the gold rush days, but construction did not begin until 1933. Designed by Charles H. Purcell, and built by American Bridge Company, it opened on November 12, 1936, six months before the Golden Gate Bridge. It originally carried automobile traffic on its upper deck, and trucks and interurban streetcars on the lower, but after the Key System abandoned rail service, the lower deck was converted to all-road traffic as well. In 1986 the bridge was unofficially dedicated to James Rolph.

The bridge has two sections of roughly equal length; the older western section, officially known as the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge (after former San Francisco Mayor and California State Assembly Speaker Willie L. Brown Jr.), connects downtown San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island; and the newer unnamed eastern section connects the island to Oakland. The western section is a double suspension bridge with two decks, westbound traffic being carried on the upper deck while eastbound is carried on the lower one. The largest span of the original eastern section was a cantilever bridge. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, a portion of the eastern section’s upper deck collapsed onto the lower deck and the bridge was closed for a month. Reconstruction of the eastern section of the bridge as a causeway connected to a self-anchored suspension bridge began in 2002; the new eastern section opened September 2, 2013, at a reported cost of over $6.5 billion, a 2,500% cost overrun from the original estimate of $250M. Unlike the western section and the original eastern section of the bridge, the new eastern section is a single deck with the eastbound and westbound lanes on each side making it the world’s widest bridge, according to Guinness World Records, as of 2014. Demolition of the old east span is expected to last until 2018.

1 Background
2 History
2.1 Pre-construction
2.2 Construction
2.3 Opening day
2.4 Rail service
2.5 Later events
3 Earthquake damage and subsequent upgrades
3.1 Western section retrofitting
3.2 Eastern section replacement
4 Name
4.1 Emperor Norton naming campaigns
4.2 Alexander Zuckermann Bike Path
5 Financing and tolls




Bridges in the San Francisco Bay

The bridge consists of two crossings, east and west of Yerba Buena Island, a natural mid-bay outcropping inside San Francisco city limits. The western crossing between Yerba Buena and downtown San Francisco has two complete suspension spans connected at a center anchorage. Rincon Hill is the western anchorage and touch-down for the San Francisco landing of the Brown bridge connected by three shorter truss spans. The eastern crossing, between Yerba Buena Island and Oakland, was a cantilever bridge with a double-tower span, five medium truss spans, and a 14-section truss causeway. Due to earthquake concerns, the eastern crossing was replaced by a new crossing that opened on Labor Day 2013. On Yerba Buena Island, the double-decked crossing is a 321-foot (98 m) concrete viaduct east of the west span’s cable anchorage, a 540-foot (160 m) tunnel through the island’s rocky central hill, another 790.8-foot (241.0 m) concrete viaduct, and a longer curved high-level steel truss viaduct that spans the final 1,169.7 feet (356.5 m) to the cantilever bridge.


The toll plaza on the Oakland side (since 1969 for westbound traffic only) has eighteen toll lanes, of which six are FasTrak-only. Metering signals are about 1,000 feet (300 m) west of the toll plaza. Two full-time bus-only lanes bypass the toll booths and metering lights around the right (north) side of the toll plaza; other high occupancy vehicles can use these lanes during weekday morning and afternoon commute periods. The two far-left toll lanes are high-occupancy vehicle lanes during weekday commute periods. Radio and television traffic reports will often refer to congestion at the toll plaza, metering lights, or a parking lot in the median of the road for bridge employees; the parking lot stretches from about 800 feet (240 m) east of the toll plaza to about 100 feet (30 m) west of the metering lights.


During the morning commute hours, traffic congestion on the westbound approach from Oakland stretches back through the MacArthur Maze interchange at the east end of the bridge onto the three feeder highways, Interstate 580, Interstate 880, and I-80 toward Richmond. Since the number of lanes on the eastbound approach from San Francisco is structurally restricted, eastbound backups are also frequent during evening commute hours.


The western section of the Bay Bridge is currently restricted to motorized freeway traffic. Pedestrians, bicycles, and other non-freeway vehicles are not allowed to cross this section. A project to add bicycle/pedestrian lanes to the western section has been proposed but is not finalized. A Caltrans bicycle shuttle operates between Oakland and San Francisco during peak commute hours for $1.00 each way.


Bay Bridge People Path

Freeway ramps next to the tunnel provide access to Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island. Because the toll plaza is on the Oakland side, the western span is a de facto non-tolled bridge; traffic between the island and the main part of San Francisco can freely cross back and forth. Those who only travel from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island, and not the entire length to the main part of San Francisco, must pay the full toll.



San Francisco, at the mouth of the bay, was perfectly placed to prosper during the California Gold Rush. Almost all goods not produced locally arrived by ship. But after the first transcontinental railroad was completed in May 1869 San Francisco was on the wrong side of the Bay, separated from the new rail link. The fear of many San Franciscans was that the city would lose its position as the regional center of trade. The concept of a bridge spanning the San Francisco Bay had been considered since the Gold Rush days. Several newspaper articles during the early 1870s discussed the idea. In early 1872, a “Bay Bridge Committee” was hard at work on plans to construct a railroad bridge. The April 1872 issue of the San Francisco Real Estate Circular contained an item about the committee:

The Bay Bridge Committee lately submitted its report to the Board of Supervisors, in which compromise with the Central Pacific was recommended; also the bridging of the bay at Ravenswood and the granting of railroad facilities at Mission Bay and on the water front. Wm. C. Ralston, ex-Mayor Selby and James Otis were on this committee. A daily newspaper attempts to account for the advice of these gentlemen to the city by hinting that they were afraid of the railroad company, and therefore made their recommendations to suit its interests.

The self-proclaimed Emperor Norton saw fit to decree three times in 1872 that a suspension bridge be constructed to connect Oakland with San Francisco. In the third of these decrees, in September 1872, Norton, frustrated that nothing had happened, proclaimed:

WHEREAS, we issued our decree ordering the citizens of San Francisco and Oakland to appropriate funds for the survey of a suspension bridge from Oakland Point via Goat Island; also for a tunnel; and to ascertain which is the best project; and whereas the said citizens have hitherto neglected to notice our said decree; and whereas we are determined our authority shall be fully respected; now, therefore, we do hereby command the arrest by the army of both the Boards of City Fathers if they persist in neglecting our decrees.

Given under our royal hand and seal at San Francisco, this 17th day of September, 1872.


Sketch of the proposed “Rush San Francisco Trans-Bay Suspension Bridge” (1913)

Unlike most of Emperor Norton’s eccentric ideas, his decree to build a bridge had wide public and political appeal. Yet, the task was too much of an engineering and economic challenge since the bay was too wide and too deep there. In 1921, over forty years after Norton’s death, a tunnel was considered, but it became clear that one would be inadequate for vehicular traffic. Support for a trans-bay crossing finally grew in the 1920s with the increasing popularity and availability of the automobile. In 1929, the California Legislature established the California Toll Bridge Authority with the responsibility of connecting San Francisco and Alameda County with a bridge.

To make the bridge feasible, its route was chosen to pass through Yerba Buena Island (formerly known as Goat Island in the 1870s), reducing the material and labor needed. Yerba Buena Island was a U.S. Navy base at the time (and until 1997). So the approval of the U.S. Congress, which regulates the armed services and supervises all naval and military bases, was necessary for this island to be used. After a great deal of lobbying, California received Congressional approval to use the island on February 20, 1931.



The Bay Bridge under construction at Yerba Buena Island in 1935

The chief engineer was Ralph Modjeski, a Polish-American. Construction began on July 9, 1933. Ultimately, twenty-four men would die constructing the bridge. The western section of the bridge between San Francisco and Yerba Buena Island presented an enormous engineering challenge. The bay was up to 100 feet (30 m) deep in places and the soil required new foundation-laying techniques. A single main suspension span some 4,100 feet (1.2 km) in length was considered but rejected, as it would have required too much fill and reduced wharfage space at San Francisco, had less vertical clearance for shipping, and cost more than the design ultimately adopted. The solution was to construct a massive concrete anchorage halfway between San Francisco and the island, and to build a main suspension span on each side of this central anchorage.

East of Yerba Buena Island, the bay to Oakland was spanned by a 10,176-foot (3.102 km) combination of double cantilever, five long-span through-trusses, and a truss causeway, forming the longest bridge of its kind at the time. The cantilever section was longest in the nation and third-longest anywhere.

Much of the original eastern section is founded upon treated wood. Because of the very deep mud on the bay bottom it was not practical to reach bedrock, although the lower levels of the mud are quite firm. Long wooden pilings were crafted from entire old-growth Douglas fir trees, which were driven through the soft mud to the firmer bottom layers.

Yerba Buena Tunnel


Traveling through the westbound Yerba Buena tunnel

Connecting the two “halves” of the bridge is the Yerba Buena Tunnel, 76 feet (23 m) wide, 58 feet (18 m) high, and 540 feet (160 m) long. It is the largest diameter transportation bore tunnel in the world.

Reminders of the long-gone bridge railway survive along the south side of the lower Yerba Buena Tunnel. These are the regularly spaced “deadman holes”, escape alcoves along the wall, into which track workers could duck if a train came along. (The north side, which always carried only motor traffic, lacks these holes.)

Opening Day


The illuminated bridge as seen from the Embarcadero (San Francisco).

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Schematic drawing of the Bay Bridge

The bridge opened on November 12, 1936, at 12:30 p.m. In attendance were the former U.S. president Herbert Hoover, Senator William G. McAdoo, and the Governor of California, Frank Merriam. Governor Merriam opened the bridge by cutting gold chains across it with an acetylene cutting torch. The San Francisco Chronicle report of November 13, 1936, read:

the greatest traffic jam in the history of S.F., a dozen old-fashioned New Year’s eves thrown into one – the biggest and most good-natured crowd of tens of thousands ever to try and walk the streets and guide their autos on them – This was the city last night, the night of the bridge opening with every auto owner in the bay region, seemingly, trying to crowd his machine onto the great bridge.

And those who tried to view the brilliantly lighted structure from the hilltops and also view the fireworks display were numbered also in the thousands.

Every intersection in the city, particularly those near the San Francisco entrance to the bridge, was jammed with a slowly moving auto caravan.

Every available policeman in the department was called to duty to aid in regulating the city’s greatest parade of autos.

One of the greatest traffic congestions of the evening was at Fifth and Mission Streets, with downtown traffic and bridge-bound traffic snarled in an almost hopeless mass. To add to the confusion, traffic signals jammed and did not synchronize.

Police reported that there was no lessening of the traffic over the bridge, all lanes being crowded with Oakland- or San-Francisco-bound machines far into the night.

The total cost was $77 million. Before opening the bridge was blessed by Cardinal Secretary of State Eugene Cardinal Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. Because it was in effect two bridges strung together, the western spans were ranked the second and third largest suspension bridges. Only the George Washington Bridge had a longer span between towers.

As part of the celebration a United States commemorative coin was produced by the San Francisco mint. A half dollar, the obverse portrays California’s symbol, the grizzly bear, while the reverse presents a picture of the bridge spanning the bay. A total of 71,424 coins were sold, some from the bridge’s tollbooths.

Roadway Plan


A double balanced cantilever bridge, five truss bridges, and two truss causeways that connected Yerba Buena Island to Oakland (demolished)

The original western approach to (and exit from) the upper deck of the bridge was a long ramp to Fifth, branching to Harrison St for westward traffic off the bridge and Bryant St for eastward traffic entering. There was an on-ramp to the upper deck on Rincon Hill from Fremont Street (that later became an off-ramp) and an off-ramp to First Street (later extended over First St to Fremont St). The lower deck ended at Essex and Harrison St; just southwest of there, the tracks of the bridge railway left the lower deck and curved northward into the elevated loop through the Transbay Terminal that was paved for buses after rail service ended.

Until the 1960s the upper deck (58 feet (18 m) wide between curbs) carried three lanes of traffic in each direction and was restricted to automobiles only. The lower deck carried three lanes of truck and auto traffic on the north side of the bridge. In the 1950s traffic lights were added to set the direction of travel in the middle lane, but still with no divider. Two railroad tracks on the south half of the lower deck carried the electric commuter trains. In 1958 the tracks were replaced with pavement, but the reconfiguration to what the traffic is today didn’t take place until 1963.

The Federal highway on the bridge was originally a concurrency of U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 50. The bridge was re-designated as Interstate 80 in 1964, and the western ends of U.S. 40 and U.S. 50 are now in Silver Summit, Utah, and West Sacramento, California, respectively.

The off-ramp for Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island is unusual in that it is on the left-hand side in the eastbound direction. This off ramp presents an unusual hazard – drivers must slow within the normal traffic flow and move into a very short off-ramp that ends in a short radius turn left turn (a 15 MPH advisory is posted). The turn has been further narrowed from its original design by the installation of crash pads on the island side. Eastbound and westbound on-ramps are on the usual right-hand side, but they do not have dedicated merge lanes; drivers must await a gap in the traffic and then accelerate from a stop sign to traffic speeds in a short distance. In 2016, a new on ramp and off ramp to Treasure Island were opened in the western direction on the right-hand side of the roadway, replacing the left-hand side off ramp in that direction.

Rail Service

In 1939, the San Francisco Transbay Terminal opened and electric commuter trains started running across the south side of the lower deck of the bridge. The terminal originally was supposed to open the same time as the Bay Bridge, but was delayed. The trains were operated by the Sacramento Northern Railroad (Western Pacific), the Interurban Electric Railway (Southern Pacific) and the Key System. Freight trains never used the bridge. The tracks left the lower deck in San Francisco just southwest of the end of 1st St. They then went along an elevated viaduct above city streets, looping around and into the terminal on its east end. Trains could turn around on the loop back onto the bridge when finished unloading. The loop continued to be used by buses until the terminal’s closure. The tracks left the lower deck in Oakland. The Interurban Electric Railway tracks ran along Engineer Road and over the Southern Pacific yard on trestles (some of it is still standing and visible from toll road ramps) onto the streets and dedicated right-of-ways in Berkeley, Albany, Oakland and Alameda. The Sacramento Northern and Key System tracks went under the SP tracks through a tunnel (which still exists and is in use as an access to the EBMUD treatment plant) and onto 40th St. Due to falling ridership, Sacramento Northern and IER service ended in 1941. After World War II Key System ridership began to fall as well. Despite the vital role the railroad played, the last train went over the bridge in April 1958. The tracks were removed and replaced with pavement on the Transbay Terminal ramps and Bay Bridge. The Key System handled buses over the bridge until 1960 when its successor, AC Transit, took over operations. It still handles service today. There have been several attempts to restore rail service on the bridge, but none have been successful.

Later Events

Modification to remove rail service


Daytime view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco seen from Yerba Buena Island

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A view of the Bay Bridge from the Bank of America building

Automobile traffic increased dramatically in the ensuing decades while the Key System declined, and in October 1963, the Bay Bridge was reconfigured with five lanes of westbound traffic on the upper deck and five lanes of eastbound traffic on the lower deck. The Key System originally planned to end train operations in 1948 when it replaced its streetcars with buses, but Caltrans did not approve of this. Trucks were allowed on both decks and the railroad was removed. Owing to a lack of clearance for trucks through the upper-deck portion of the Yerba Buena tunnel, it was necessary to lower the elevation of the upper deck where it passes through the tunnel, and to correspondingly excavate to lower the elevation of the lower portion. Additionally, the upper deck was retrofitted to handle the increased loads due to trucks, with understringers added and prestressing added to the bottom of the floor beams. This retrofit is still in place and is visible to Eastbound traffic.

1968 Aircraft Accident

On February 11, 1968, a U.S. Navy training aircraft crashed into the cantilever span of the bridge, killing both reserve officers aboard. The T2V SeaStar, based at NAS Los Alamitos in southern California, was on a routine weekend mission and had just taken off in the fog from nearby NAS Alameda. The plane struck the bridge about 15 feet (5 m) above the upper deck roadway and then sank in the bay north of the bridge. There were no injuries among the motorists on the bridge. One of the truss sections of the bridges was replaced due to damage from the impact.

Cable Lighting

The series of lights adorning the suspension cables was added in 1986 as part of the bridge’s 50th-anniversary celebration.

Ship Accident

In 2007 a container ship named the Cosco Busan (now the Hanjin Venezia) hit the bridge resulting in the Cosco Busan oil spill.

2013 public “light sculpture” installation


A view of Bay Bridge lights from a pier next to the Ferry Building in San Francisco

On March 5, 2013, a public art installation called “The Bay Lights” was activated on the western span’s vertical cables. The installation was designed by artist Leo Villareal and consists of 25,000 LED lights originally scheduled to be on nightly display until March 2015. However, on December 17, 2014, the non-profit Illuminate The Arts announced that it had raised the $4 million needed to make the lights permanent; the display was temporarily turned off starting in March 2015 in order to perform maintenance and install sturdier bulbs and then re-lit on January 30, 2016.

In order to reduce driver distractions, the privately funded display is not visible to users of the bridge, only to distant observers. This lighting effort is intended to form part of a larger project to “light the bay” Villareal used various algorithms to generate patterns such as rainfall, reflections on water, bird flight, expanding rings, and others. Villareal’s patterns and transitions will be sequenced and their duration determined by computerized random number generator to make each viewing experience unique. Owing to the efficiency of the LED system the estimated operating cost is only US$15.00 per night.

Earthquake damage and subsequent upgrades


A collapsed section of roadway deck after the 1989 earthquake

During the evening of October 17, 1989, Loma Prieta earthquake, which measured 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale, a 50-foot (15 m) section of the upper deck of the eastern truss portion of the bridge at Pier E9 collapsed onto the deck below, indirectly causing one death. The bridge was closed for just over a month as construction crews repaired the section. It reopened on November 17 of that year. The lighter pavement of the replacement section is visible in aerial photographs, at the east end of the through-truss part of the bridge (37.8189°N 122.3442°W).

Western Section Retrofitting

The western section has undergone extensive seismic retrofitting. During the retrofit, much of the structural steel supporting the bridge deck was replaced while the bridge remained open to traffic. Engineers accomplished this by using methods similar to those employed on the Chicago Skyway reconstruction project.

The entire bridge was fabricated using hot steel rivets, which are impossible to heat treat and so remain relatively soft. Analysis showed that these could fail by shearing under extreme stress. Therefore, at most locations each given rivet was removed by breaking off the head with a jack-hammer [rivet buster] and punching out the old rivet, the hole precision reamed and the old rivets replaced with heat-treated high-strength tension-control [TC] bolts and nuts. Most bolts had domed heads placed facing traffic so they looked similar to the rivets that were removed.[Caltrans contract 04-0435U4, 1999–2004]. This work had to be performed with great care as the steel of the structure had for many years been painted with lead based paint, which had to be carefully removed and contained by workers with extensive protective gear.


Obsolete hot riveted laced ties (left, eastern span) and bolted box beam retrofit (right, western span)

Most of the beams were originally constructed of two plate I-beams joined with lattices of flat strip or angle stock, depending upon structural requirements. These have all been reconstructed by replacing the riveted lattice elements with bolted steel plate and so converting the lattice beams into box beams. This replacement included adding face plates to the large diagonal beams joining the faces of the main towers, which now have an improved appearance when viewed from certain angles.

Diagonal box beams have been added to each bay of the upper and lower decks of the western spans. These add stiffness to reduce side-to-side motion during an earthquake and reduce the probability of damage to the decking surfaces.

Analysis showed that some massive concrete supports could burst and crumble under likely stresses. In particular the western supports were extensively modified. First, the location of existing reinforcing bar is determined using magnetic techniques. In areas between bars holes are drilled. Into these holes is inserted and glued an L-shaped bar that protrudes 15 to 25 centimeters (6 to 10 inches). This bar is retained in the hole with a high-strength epoxy adhesive. The entire surface of the structure is thus covered with closely spaced protrusions. A network of horizontal and vertical reinforcing bars is then attached to these protrusions. Mold surface plates are then positioned to retain high-strength concrete, which is then pumped into the void. After removal of the formwork the surface appears similar to the original concrete. This technique has been applied elsewhere throughout California to improve freeway overpass abutments and some overpass central supports that have unconventional shapes. (Other techniques such as jacket and grout are applied to simple vertical posts; see the seismic retrofit article.)

The western approaches have also been retrofitted in part, but mostly these have been replaced with new construction of reinforced concrete.

Eastern Section Replacement

For various reasons, the eastern section would have been too expensive to retrofit compared to replacing it, so the decision was made to replace it.

The replacement section underwent a series of design changes, both progressive and regressive, with increasing cost estimates and contractor bids. The final plan included a single-towered self-anchored suspension span starting at Yerba Buena island, leading to a long viaduct to the Oakland touchdown.

Separated and protected bicycle lanes are a visually prominent feature on the south side of the new eastern section. The bikeway will carry recreational and commuter cyclists between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island.. Until that time cyclists and pedestrians must turn around and return to Oakland. The original eastern cantilever span had firefighting dry standpipes installed. No firefighting dry or wet standpipes were designed for the eastern section replacement, although, the firefighting wet standpipes do exist on the original western section visible on both the north-side upper and lower decks.

The original eastern section closed permanently to traffic on August 28, 2013, and the replacement span opened for traffic five days later.

Eastern Span: Original and Replacement


Some new construction (2004)


Substantial progress (2011)


The completed replacement and the old bridge (2013)

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Rest of old and new bridge (June 2015)


Artist’s simulation of final appearance after old span demolition

October 2009 eyebar crack, repair failure and bridge closure

During the 2009 Labor Day weekend closure for a portion of the replacement, a major crack was found in an eyebar, significant enough to warrant bridge closure. Working in parallel with the retrofit, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and its contractors and subcontractors, were able to design, engineer, fabricate, and install the pieces required to repair the bridge, delaying its planned opening by only  1 1⁄2 hours. The repair was not inspected by the Federal Highway Administration, who relied on state inspection reports to ensure safety guidelines were met.

On October 27, 2009, during the evening commute, the steel crossbeam and two steel tie rods repaired over Labor Day weekend snapped off the Bay Bridge’s eastern section and fell to the upper deck. The cause may have been due to metal-on-metal vibration from bridge traffic and wind gusts of up to 55 miles per hour (90 km/h) causing failure of one rod, which broke off, which then led to the metal section crashing down. Three vehicles were either struck by or hit the fallen debris, though there were no injuries. On November 1, Caltrans announced that the bridge would probably stay closed at least through the morning commute of Monday, November 2, after repairs performed during the weekend failed a stress test on Sunday. BART and the Golden Gate Ferry systems added supplemental service to accommodate the increased passenger load during the bridge closure. The bridge reopened to traffic on November 2, 2009.

The pieces that broke off on October 27 were a saddle, crossbars, and two tension rods.


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A view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge western span from the waterfront in San Francisco

The bridge was unofficially “dedicated” to James B. “Sunny Jim” Rolph, Jr., but this was not widely recognized until the bridge’s 50th-anniversary celebrations in 1986. The official name of the bridge for all functional purposes has always been the “San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge”, and, by most local people, it is referred to simply as “the Bay Bridge.”

Rolph, a Mayor of San Francisco from 1912 to 1931, was the Governor of California at the time construction of the bridge began. He died in office on June 2, 1934, two years before the bridge opened, leaving the bridge to be named for him out of respect. In 1932, with an inability to finance the bridge, Joseph R. Knowland, (a former U.S. Congressman) travelled to Washington and helped to persuade President Herbert Hoover and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to advance $62 million for the building of the bridge.

Emperor Norton Naming Campaigns

In 1872, the San Francisco entrepreneur and eccentric Emperor Norton issued three proclamations calling for the design and construction of a suspension bridge between San Francisco and Oakland via Yerba Buena Island (formerly Goat Island).

A 1939 plaque honoring Emperor Norton for the original idea for the Bay Bridge was dedicated by the fraternal society E Clampus Vitus and was installed at The Cliff House in February 1955. In November 1986, in connection with the bridge’s 50th anniversary, the plaque was moved to the Transbay Terminal, the public transit and Greyhound bus depot at the west end of the bridge in downtown San Francisco. When the terminal was closed in 2010, the plaque was placed in storage.

There have been two recent campaigns to name all, or parts, of the Bay Bridge for Emperor Norton.


In November 2004, after a campaign by San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Phil Frank, then-San Francisco District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a resolution to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors calling for the entire two-bridge system, from San Francisco to Oakland, to be named for Emperor Norton.

On December 14, 2004, the Board approved a modified version of this resolution, calling for only “new additions” — i.e., the new eastern crossing — to be named “The Emperor Norton Bridge”. Neither the City of Oakland nor Alameda County passed any similar resolution, so the effort went no further.


In June 2013, nine state assemblymen, joined by two state senators, introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 65 (ACR 65) to name the western crossing of the bridge for former California Assembly Speaker and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Six weeks later, a grassroots petition was launched seeking to rename the entire two-bridge system for Emperor Norton. In September 2013, the petition’s author launched a nonprofit, The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign, that advocates for adding a name to honor Emperor Norton (rather than “renaming” the bridge) and that undertakes other efforts to advance Norton’s legacy.


The state legislative resolution naming the western section of the Bay Bridge the “Willie L. Brown, Jr., Bridge” passed the Assembly in August 2013 and the Senate in September 2013. A ceremony was held on February 11, 2014, marking the resolution and the installation of signs on either end of the section.

The larger entity of which the western section is a part retains the separate and independent designation “San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge”.

Alexander Zuckermann Bike Path

The pedestrian and bicycle route on the eastern section opened on September 3, 2013, and is named after Alexander Zuckermann, founding chair of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. This forms a transbay route for the San Francisco Bay Trail. Until October 2016, the path did not connect to Yerba Buena and Treasure Island sidewalks, due to the need to demolish more of the old eastern section before final construction. As of December 2016, the path is open only on weekends and holidays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. “to ensure public safety during torch cutting and other old Bay Bridge demolition activities.” This work is expected to be completed in 2017.

Financing and Tolls

When the Bay Bridge opened in 1936, the toll was 65 cents, collected in each direction. Within months, the toll was lowered to 50 cents in order to compete with the ferry system, and finally to 25 cents since this was shown sufficient to pay off the original revenue bonds on schedule. As with other bridges of the era, passage was supposed to become free after completion of the repayment of the original bonds.

In the interest of reducing the cost of collecting tolls and of building additional toll booths, all bridges in the Bay Area were converted to collect tolls in only one direction, with the toll amount collected doubled.[when?] Tolls on the Bay Bridge are now only collected from westbound traffic. Because the toll plaza is on the Oakland side, the western span is a de facto non-tolled bridge, as traffic between Yerba Buena Island and the main part of San Francisco can freely cross back and forth.

Tolls were subsequently raised to finance improvements to the bridge approaches, required to connect with new freeways, and to subsidize public transit in order to reduce the traffic over the bridge.

Caltrans, the state highway transportation agency, maintains seven of the eight San Francisco Bay Area bridges. (The Golden Gate Bridge is owned and maintained by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.)

The basic toll (for automobiles) on the seven state bridges was raised to $1 by Regional Measure 1, approved by Bay Area voters in 1988. A $1 seismic retrofit surcharge was added in 1998 by the state legislature, originally for eight years, but since then extended to December 2037 (AB1171, October 2001). On March 2, 2004, voters approved Regional Measure 2, raising the toll by another dollar to a total of $3. An additional dollar was added to the toll starting January 1, 2007, to cover cost overruns concerning the replacement of the eastern span.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional transportation agency, in its capacity as the Bay Area Toll Authority, administers RM1 and RM2 funds, a significant portion of which are allocated to public transit capital improvements and operating subsidies in the transportation corridors served by the bridges. Caltrans administers the “second dollar” seismic surcharge, and receives some of the MTC-administered funds to perform other maintenance work on the bridges. The Bay Area Toll Authority is made up of appointed officials put in place by various city and county governments, and is not subject to direct voter oversight.

Due to further funding shortages for seismic retrofit projects, the Bay Area Toll Authority again raised tolls on all Bay Area bridges in its control (this excludes the Golden Gate Bridge) in July 2010. The toll rate for autos on other Bay Area bridges was increased to US$5, but in the Bay Bridge a variable pricing tolling scheme based on congestion was implemented. The Bay Bridge congestion pricing scheme charges a US$6 toll from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. During weekends cars pay US$5. Carpools before the implementation were exempted but now they pay US$2.50, and the carpool toll discount is now also available only to drivers with FasTrak electronic toll devices. The toll remained at the previous toll of US$4 at all other times on weekdays. The Bay Area Toll Authority reported that by October 2010 fewer users are driving during the peak hours and more vehicles are crossing the Bay Bridge before and after the 5–10 a.m. period in which the congestion toll goes into effect. Commute delays in the first six months dropped by an average of 15% compared with 2009. For vehicles with more than two axles, the toll rate is US$5 per axle, regardless of the time of day.

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Panorama showing the West span, 2007

San Francisco–Oakland Panoramic view of the Bay Bridge with new eastern span

Panorama showing the Bay Bridge with the new eastern span, 2017

Golden Gate Bridge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point

  • Coordinates:  37°49′11″N 122°28′43″WCoordinates: 37°49′11″N 122°28′43″W
  • Carries: 6 lanes of US 101 / SR 1 (see below), pedestrians and bicycles.
  • Crosses: Golden Gate
  • Locale: San Francisco, California and Marin County, California, U.S.
  • Official name: Golden Gate Bridge
  • Maintained by Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District
  • Characteristics
    • Design Art Deco, Suspension, truss arch & truss causeways
    • Material Steel
    • Total length 8,981 ft (2,737.4 m), about 1.7 mi (2.7 km)
    • Width 90 ft (27.4 m)
    • Height 746 ft (227.4 m)
    • Longest span 4,200 ft (1,280.2 m)
    • Clearance above 14 ft (4.3 m) at toll gates, Trucks cannot pass
    • Clearance below 220 ft (67.1 m) at high tide
  • History
    • Architect Irving Morrow
    • Engineering design by Joseph Strauss, and Charles Ellis
    • Construction start January 5, 1933
    • Construction end April 19, 1937
    • Opened May 27, 1937; 80 years ago
  • Statistics
    • Daily traffic 110,000
    • Toll Cars (southbound only)
    • $7.50 (Pay by plate), $6.50 (FasTrak), $4.50 (carpools during peak hours, FasTrak only)
  • California Historical Landmark
    • Designated June 18, 1987
    • Reference no. 974
  • San Francisco Designated Landmark
    • Designated May 21, 1999
    • Reference no. 222

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the American city of San Francisco, California – the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula – to Marin County, carrying both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Frommer’s travel guide describes the Golden Gate Bridge as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.” It opened in 1937 and was, until 1964, the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet (1,280 m).


Ferry Service


Golden Gate with Fort Point in foreground, c. 1891

Before the bridge was built, the only practical short route between San Francisco and what is now Marin County was by boat across a section of San Francisco Bay. A ferry service began as early as 1820, with a regularly scheduled service beginning in the 1840s for the purpose of transporting water to San Francisco.

The Sausalito Land and Ferry Company service, launched in 1867, eventually became the Golden Gate Ferry Company, a Southern Pacific Railroad subsidiary, the largest ferry operation in the world by the late 1920s. Once for railroad passengers and customers only, Southern Pacific’s automobile ferries became very profitable and important to the regional economy. The ferry crossing between the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco and Sausalito in Marin County took approximately 20 minutes and cost US$1.00 per vehicle, a price later reduced to compete with the new bridge. The trip from the San Francisco Ferry Building took 27 minutes.

Many wanted to build a bridge to connect San Francisco to Marin County. San Francisco was the largest American city still served primarily by ferry boats. Because it did not have a permanent link with communities around the bay, the city’s growth rate was below the national average. Many experts said that a bridge could not be built across the 6,700 ft (2,042 m) strait, which had strong, swirling tides and currents, with water 372 ft (113 m) deep at the center of the channel, and frequent strong winds. Experts said that ferocious winds and blinding fogs would prevent construction and operation.


Although the idea of a bridge spanning the Golden Gate was not new, the proposal that eventually took hold was made in a 1916 San Francisco Bulletin article by former engineering student James Wilkins. San Francisco’s City Engineer estimated the cost at $100 million, which would have been $2.12 billion in 2009, and impractical for the time. He asked bridge engineers whether it could be built for less. One who responded, Joseph Strauss, was an ambitious engineer and poet who had, for his graduate thesis, designed a 55-mile-long (89 km) railroad bridge across the Bering Strait. At the time, Strauss had completed some 400 drawbridges—most of which were inland—and nothing on the scale of the new project. Strauss’s initial drawings were for a massive cantilever on each side of the strait, connected by a central suspension segment, which Strauss promised could be built for $17 million.

Local authorities agreed to proceed only on the assurance that Strauss would alter the design and accept input from several consulting project experts. A suspension-bridge design was considered the most practical, because of recent advances in metallurgy.
Strauss spent more than a decade drumming up support in Northern California. The bridge faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. The Department of War was concerned that the bridge would interfere with ship traffic. The navy feared that a ship collision or sabotage to the bridge could block the entrance to one of its main harbors. Unions demanded guarantees that local workers would be favored for construction jobs. Southern Pacific Railroad, one of the most powerful business interests in California, opposed the bridge as competition to its ferry fleet and filed a lawsuit against the project, leading to a mass boycott of the ferry service.

In May 1924, Colonel Herbert Deakyne held the second hearing on the Bridge on behalf of the Secretary of War in a request to use federal land for construction. Deakyne, on behalf of the Secretary of War, approved the transfer of land needed for the bridge structure and leading roads to the “Bridging the Golden Gate Association” and both San Francisco County and Marin County, pending further bridge plans by Strauss. Another ally was the fledgling automobile industry, which supported the development of roads and bridges to increase demand for automobiles.

The bridge’s name was first used when the project was initially discussed in 1917 by M.M. O’Shaughnessy, city engineer of San Francisco, and Strauss. The name became official with the passage of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act by the state legislature in 1923, creating a special district to design, build and finance the bridge. San Francisco and most of the counties along the North Coast of California joined the Golden Gate Bridge District, with the exception being Humboldt County, whose residents opposed the bridge’s construction and the traffic it would generate.



South tower seen from walkway, with Art Deco elements

Strauss was chief engineer in charge of overall design and construction of the bridge project. However, because he had little understanding or experience with cable-suspension designs, responsibility for much of the engineering and architecture fell on other experts. Strauss’s initial design proposal (two double cantilever spans linked by a central suspension segment) was unacceptable from a visual standpoint. The final graceful suspension design was conceived and championed by Leon Moisseiff, the engineer of the Manhattan Bridge in New York City.

Irving Morrow, a relatively unknown residential architect, designed the overall shape of the bridge towers, the lighting scheme, and Art Deco elements, such as the tower decorations, streetlights, railing, and walkways. The famous International Orange color was originally used as a sealant for the bridge. The US Navy had wanted it to be painted with black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships.

Senior engineer Charles Alton Ellis, collaborating remotely with Moisseiff, was the principal engineer of the project. Moisseiff produced the basic structural design, introducing his “deflection theory” by which a thin, flexible roadway would flex in the wind, greatly reducing stress by transmitting forces via suspension cables to the bridge towers. Although the Golden Gate Bridge design has proved sound, a later Moisseiff design, the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, collapsed in a strong windstorm soon after it was completed, because of an unexpected aeroelastic flutter. Ellis was also tasked with designing a “bridge within a bridge” in the southern abutment, to avoid the need to demolish Fort Point, a pre–Civil War masonry fortification viewed, even then, as worthy of historic preservation. He penned a graceful steel arch spanning the fort and carrying the roadway to the bridge’s southern anchorage.


Below Golden Gate Bridge

Ellis was a Greek scholar and mathematician who at one time was a University of Illinois professor of engineering despite having no engineering degree. He eventually earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois prior to designing the Golden Gate Bridge and spent the last twelve years of his career as a professor at Purdue University. He became an expert in structural design, writing the standard textbook of the time. Ellis did much of the technical and theoretical work that built the bridge, but he received none of the credit in his lifetime. In November 1931, Strauss fired Ellis and replaced him with a former subordinate, Clifford Paine, ostensibly for wasting too much money sending telegrams back and forth to Moisseiff. Ellis, obsessed with the project and unable to find work elsewhere during the Depression, continued working 70 hours per week on an unpaid basis, eventually turning in ten volumes of hand calculations.

With an eye toward self-promotion and posterity, Strauss downplayed the contributions of his collaborators who, despite receiving little recognition or compensation, are largely responsible for the final form of the bridge. He succeeded in having himself credited as the person most responsible for the design and vision of the bridge. Only much later were the contributions of the others on the design team properly appreciated. In May 2007, the Golden Gate Bridge District issued a formal report on 70 years of stewardship of the famous bridge and decided to give Ellis major credit for the design of the bridge.


The height, depth, and length of the span from end to end, looking west

Golden_Gate_Bridge_Dec_15_2015_by_D_Ramey_Logan (1)

The Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, as seen from just north of Alcatraz Island


The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, authorized by an act of the California Legislature, was incorporated in 1928 as the official entity to design, construct, and finance the Golden Gate Bridge. However, after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the District was unable to raise the construction funds, so it lobbied for a $30 million bond measure. The bonds were approved in November 1930, by votes in the counties affected by the bridge. The construction budget at the time of approval was $27 million. However, the District was unable to sell the bonds until 1932, when Amadeo Giannini, the founder of San Francisco–based Bank of America, agreed on behalf of his bank to buy the entire issue in order to help the local economy.


Construction began on January 5, 1933. The project cost more than $35 million, completing ahead of schedule and $1.3 million under budget. The Golden Gate Bridge construction project was carried out by the McClintic-Marshall Construction Co., a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel Corporation founded by Howard H. McClintic and Charles D. Marshall, both of Lehigh University.


1.2 million steel rivets hold the bridge together. This is a segment of one of those replaced during the seismic retrofit of the bridge after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Strauss remained head of the project, overseeing day-to-day construction and making some groundbreaking contributions. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, he placed a brick from his alma mater’s demolished McMicken Hall in the south anchorage before the concrete was poured. He innovated the use of movable safety netting beneath the construction site, which saved the lives of many otherwise-unprotected ironworkers. Of eleven men killed from falls during construction, ten were killed on February 17, 1937, when the bridge was near completion when the net failed under the stress of a scaffold that had fallen. According to Travel Channel’s Monumental Mysteries, the workers’ platform that was attached to a rolling hanger on a track collapsed when the bolts that were connected to the track were too small and the amount of weight was too great to bear. The platform fell into the safety net, but was too heavy and the net gave way. Two out of the twelve workers survived the 200-foot (61 m) fall into the icy waters, including the 37-year-old foreman, Slim Lambert. Nineteen others who were saved by the net over the course of construction became members of their Half Way to Hell Club.

The project was finished and opened May 27, 1937. The Bridge Round House diner was then included in the southeastern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, adjacent to the tourist plaza which was renovated in 2012. The Bridge Round House, an Art Deco design by Alfred Finnila completed in 1938, has been popular throughout the years as a starting point for various commercial tours of the bridge and an unofficial gift shop. The diner was renovated in 2012 and the gift shop was then removed as a new, official gift shop has been included in the adjacent plaza.

During the bridge work, the Assistant Civil Engineer of California Alfred Finnila had overseen the entire iron work of the bridge as well as half of the bridge’s road work. With the death of Jack Balestreri in April 2012, all workers involved in the original construction are now deceased.

Opening festivities, 50th, and 75th anniversaries


View of the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point from Marine Drive.

The bridge-opening celebration began on May 27, 1937 and lasted for one week. The day before vehicle traffic was allowed, 200,000 people crossed either on foot or on roller skates. On opening day, Mayor Angelo Rossi and other officials rode the ferry to Marin, then crossed the bridge in a motorcade past three ceremonial “barriers”, the last a blockade of beauty queens who required Joseph Strauss to present the bridge to the Highway District before allowing him to pass. An official song, “There’s a Silver Moon on the Golden Gate”, was chosen to commemorate the event. Strauss wrote a poem that is now on the Golden Gate Bridge entitled “The Mighty Task is Done.” The next day, President Roosevelt pushed a button in Washington, D.C. signaling the official start of vehicle traffic over the Bridge at noon. As the celebration got out of hand there was a small riot in the uptown Polk Gulch area. Weeks of civil and cultural activities called “the Fiesta” followed. A statue of Strauss was moved in 1955 to a site near the bridge.

In May 1987, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, the Golden Gate Bridge district again closed the bridge to automobile traffic and allowed pedestrians to cross the bridge. However, this celebration attracted 750,000 to 1,000,000 people, and ineffective crowd control meant the bridge became congested with roughly 300,000 people, causing the center span of the bridge to flatten out under the weight. Although the bridge is designed to flex in that way under heavy loads, and was estimated not to have exceeded 40% of the yielding stress of the suspension cables, bridge officials stated that uncontrolled pedestrian access was not being considered as part of the 75th anniversary on Sunday, May 27, 2012, because of the additional law enforcement costs required “since 9/11”.


A pedestrian poses at the old railing on opening day, 1937


Opening of the Golden Gate Bridge


Official invitation to the opening of the bridge. This copy was sent to the City of Seattle

Structural Specifications


On the south side of the bridge a 36.5-inch-wide (93 cm) cross-section of the cable, containing 27,572 wires, is on display.

Until 1964, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet (1,300 m). Since 1964 its main span length has been surpassed by ten bridges; it now has the second-longest main span in the United States, after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. The total length of the Golden Gate Bridge from abutment to abutment is 8,981 feet (2,737 m).

The Golden Gate Bridge’s clearance above high water averages 220 feet (67 m) while its towers, at 746 feet (227 m) above the water, were the world’s tallest on a suspension bridge until 1998 when bridges in Denmark and Japan were completed.

The weight of the roadway is hung from two cables that pass through the two main towers and are fixed in concrete at each end. Each cable is made of 27,572 strands of wire. There are 80,000 miles (130,000 km) of wire in the main cables. The bridge has approximately 1,200,000 total rivets.


The color of the bridge is officially an orange vermilion called international orange. The color was selected by consulting architect Irving Morrow because it complements the natural surroundings and enhances the bridge’s visibility in fog. Aesthetics was the foremost reason why the first design of Joseph Strauss was rejected. Upon re-submission of his bridge construction plan, he added details, such as lighting, to outline the bridge’s cables and towers. In 1999, it was ranked fifth on the List of America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

The bridge was originally painted with red lead primer and a lead-based topcoat, which was touched up as required. In the mid-1960s, a program was started to improve corrosion protection by stripping the original paint and repainting the bridge with zinc silicate primer and vinyl topcoats. Since 1990, acrylic topcoats have been used instead for air-quality reasons. The program was completed in 1995 and it is now maintained by 38 painters who touch up the paintwork where it becomes seriously corroded.


A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands on a foggy morning at sunrise


View of the northern tower of the bridge



Installation of the movable median barrier system in January 2015


Testing the newly installed movable barrier.

Most maps and signage mark the bridge as part of the concurrency between U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1. Although part of the National Highway System, the bridge is not officially part of California’s Highway System. For example, under the California Streets and Highways Code § 401, Route 101 ends at “the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge” and then resumes at “a point in Marin County opposite San Francisco”. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District has jurisdiction over the segment of highway that crosses the bridge instead of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

The movable median barrier between the lanes is moved several times daily to conform to traffic patterns. On weekday mornings, traffic flows mostly southbound into the city, so four of the six lanes run southbound. Conversely, on weekday afternoons, four lanes run northbound. During off-peak periods and weekends, traffic is split with three lanes in each direction.

From 1968 to 2015, opposing traffic was separated by small, plastic pylons, and during that time, there were 16 fatalities resulting from 128 head-on collisions. To improve safety, the speed limit on the Golden Gate Bridge was reduced from 50 to 45 mph (80 to 72 km/h) on October 1, 1989. Although there had been discussion concerning the installation of a movable barrier since the 1980s, only in March 2005 did the Bridge Board of Directors commit to finding funding to complete the $2 million study required prior to the installation of a movable median barrier. Installation of the resulting barrier was completed on January 11, 2015, following a closure of 45.5 hours to private vehicle traffic, the longest in the bridge’s history. The new barrier system, including the zipper trucks, cost approximately $30.3 million to purchase and install.

Usage and Tourism


Looking north with traffic and current flow into the bay with sailboats

The bridge is popular with pedestrians and bicyclists, and was built with walkways on either side of the six vehicle traffic lanes. Initially, they were separated from the traffic lanes by only a metal curb, but railings between the walkways and the traffic lanes were added in 2003, primarily as a measure to prevent bicyclists from falling into the roadway.

The main walkway is on the eastern side, and is open for use by both pedestrians and bicycles in the morning to mid-afternoon during weekdays (5 am to 3:30 pm), and to pedestrians only for the remaining daylight hours (until 6 pm, or 9 pm during DST). The eastern walkway is reserved for pedestrians on weekends (5 am to 6 pm, or 9 pm during DST), and is open exclusively to bicyclists in the evening and overnight, when it is closed to pedestrians. The western walkway is open only for bicyclists and only during the hours when they are not allowed on the eastern walkway.

Bus service across the bridge is provided by two public transportation agencies: San Francisco Muni and Golden Gate Transit. Muni offers Saturday and Sunday service on the Marin Headlands Express bus line, and Golden Gate Transit runs numerous bus lines throughout the week. The southern end of the bridge, near the toll plaza and parking lot, is also accessible daily from 5:30 a.m. to midnight by Muni line 28. The Marin Airporter, a private company, also offers service across the bridge between Marin County and San Francisco International Airport.

A visitor center and gift shop, dubbed the “Bridge Pavilion”, is located on the San Francisco side of the bridge, adjacent to the southeast parking lot. It opened in 2012, in time for the bridge’s 75th anniversary celebration. A cafe, outdoor exhibits, and restroom facilities are located nearby. On the Marin side of the bridge, only accessible from the northbound lanes, is the H. Dana Bower Rest Area and Vista Point, named after the first landscape architect for the California Division of Highways.

Lands and waters under and around the bridge are homes to varieties of wildlife such as bobcats and sea lions. Three species of cetaceans that had been absent in the area for many years show recent recoveries/(re)colonizations vicinity to the bridge, and researchers study them to strengthen protections, concerning actions by public and recommending to watch whales either from the bridge and nearby, or to use a local whale watching operator.


The last of the construction bonds were retired in 1971, with $35 million in principal and nearly $39 million in interest raised entirely from bridge tolls.

In November 2006, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District recommended a corporate sponsorship program for the bridge to address its operating deficit, projected at $80 million over five years. The District promised that the proposal, which it called a “partnership program,” would not include changing the name of the bridge or placing advertising on the bridge itself. In October 2007, the Board unanimously voted to discontinue the proposal and seek additional revenue through other means, most likely a toll increase.

In an effort to save $19.2 million over the following 10 years, the Golden Gate District voted in January 2011 to eliminate all toll takers by 2012 and use only open road tolling. Subsequently, this was delayed and toll taker elimination occurred in March 2013. The cost savings have been revised to $19 million over an eight-year period. In addition to the FasTrak electronic toll collection system, the Golden Gate District implemented the use of license plate tolling (branded as “Pay-by-Plate”), and also a one time payment system for drivers to pay before or after their trip on the bridge. Twenty-eight positions were eliminated as part of this plan.

On April 7, 2014, the toll for users of FasTrak was increased from $5 to $6, while the toll for drivers using either the license plate tolling or the one time payment system was raised from $6 to $7. Bicycle, pedestrian, and northbound motor vehicle traffic remain toll free. For vehicles with more than two axles, the toll rate is $7 per axle for those using license plate tolling or the one time payment system, and $6 per axle for FasTrak users. During peak traffic hours, carpool vehicles carrying two or more people and motorcycles pay a discounted toll of $4; drivers must have Fastrak to take advantage of this carpool rate. The Golden Gate Transportation District then planned to increase the tolls by 25 cents in July 2015, and then by another 25 cents each of the next three years.

Golden Gate Bridge toll increases (2014–18)

Golden Gate Bridge toll increases

Congestion Pricing


Looking south

In March 2008, the Golden Gate Bridge District board approved a resolution to start congestion pricing at the Golden Gate Bridge, charging higher tolls during the peak hours, but rising and falling depending on traffic levels. This decision allowed the Bay Area to meet the federal requirement to receive $158 million in federal transportation funds from USDOT Urban Partnership grant. As a condition of the grant, the congestion toll was to be in place by September 2009.

The first results of the study, called the Mobility, Access and Pricing Study (MAPS), showed that a congestion pricing program is feasible. The different pricing scenarios considered were presented in public meetings in December 2008.

In August 2008, transportation officials ended the congestion pricing program in favor of varying rates for metered parking along the route to the bridge including on Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue.




As a suicide prevention initiative, this sign promotes a special telephone available on the bridge that connects to a crisis hotline.

The Golden Gate Bridge is the second-most used suicide site/suicide bridge in the world, after the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. The deck is about 245 feet (75 m) above the water. After a fall of four seconds, jumpers hit the water at around 75 mph or about 120 km/h. Most of the jumpers die from impact trauma. About 5% of the jumpers survive the initial impact but generally drown or die of hypothermia in the cold water.
After years of debate and over an estimated 1,500 deaths, suicide barriers began to be installed in April 2017. Construction will take approximately four years at a cost of over $200 million.



Air race near the Golden Gate Bridge

Since its completion, the Golden Gate Bridge has been closed because of weather conditions only three times: on December 1, 1951, because of gusts of 69 mph (111 km/h); on December 23, 1982, because of winds of 70 mph (113 km/h); and on December 3, 1983, because of wind gusts of 75 mph (121 km/h).

An anemometer, placed midway between the two towers on the west side of the bridge, has been used to measure wind speeds. Another anemometer was placed on one of the towers.

Seismic Vulnerability and Improvements


Doyle Drive Replacement Project progress in October 2013

Modern knowledge of the effect of earthquakes on structures led to a program to retrofit the Golden Gate to better resist seismic events. The proximity of the bridge to the San Andreas Fault places it at risk for a significant earthquake. Once thought to have been able to withstand any magnitude of foreseeable earthquake, the bridge was actually vulnerable to complete structural failure (i.e., collapse) triggered by the failure of supports on the 320-foot (98 m) arch over Fort Point. A $392 million program was initiated to improve the structure’s ability to withstand such an event with only minimal (repairable) damage. One challenging undertaking is completing this program without disrupting traffic. A complex electro-hydraulic synchronous lift system was custom built for construction of temporary support towers and a series of intricate lifts, transferring the loads from the existing bridge onto the temporary supports. This was completed with engineers from Balfour Beatty and Enerpac, accomplishing this task without disrupting day-to-day San Francisco commuter traffic. The retrofit was planned to be completed in 2012.

The former elevated approach to the Golden Gate Bridge through the San Francisco Presidio, known as Doyle Drive, dated to 1933 and was named after Frank P. Doyle, President and son of the founder of the Exchange Bank in Santa Rosa, and the man who, more than any other person, made it possible to build the Golden Gate Bridge. The highway carried about 91,000 vehicles each weekday between downtown San Francisco and the North Bay and points north. The road was deemed “vulnerable to earthquake damage”, had a problematic 4-lane design, and lacked shoulders, and a San Francisco County Transportation Authority study recommended that it be replaced. Construction on the $1 billion replacement, temporarily known as the Presidio Parkway, began in December 2009. The elevated Doyle Drive was demolished on the weekend of April 27–30, 2012, and traffic used a part of the partially completed Presidio Parkway, until it was switched onto the finished Presidio Parkway on the weekend of July 9–12, 2015. As of May 2012, an official at Caltrans said there is no plan to permanently rename the portion known as Doyle Drive.

In Popular Culture


Golden Gate Bridge at sunset

As a prominent American landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge has been used in numerous media which includes books, films and video games.


Comparison of the side elevations of the Golden Gate Bridge and some notable bridges at the same scale. (click for interactive version)


San Francisco with two bridges (Western section of Bay Bridge in the left background), Coit Tower (in background to the left of north tower), and Fort Mason (on the San Francisco waterfront in the background behind the north tower) from Marin

Golden_Gate_Bridge_at_night (1)

Golden Gate Bridge at night, with San Francisco in the background

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy 

35th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson
United States Senator from Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1953 – December 22, 1960
Preceded by Henry Cabot Lodge
Succeeded by Benjamin Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts’s 11th District
In office
January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1953
Preceded by James Curley
Succeeded by Tip O’Neill
Personal Details
Born John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died November 22, 1963 (aged 46)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jacqueline Bouvier
Relations Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (father)
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (mother)
Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (brother)
Rosemary Kennedy (sister)
Kathleen Agnes Kennedy (sister)
Eunice Kennedy (sister)
Patricia Kennedy (sister)
Robert F. Kennedy (brother)
Jean Kennedy (sister)
Edward Moore Kennedy (brother)
  • Arabella (1956 stillborn)
  • Caroline B. (b. 1957)
  • John F., Jr. (1960–1999)
  • Patrick B. (August 7–9, 1963)
Alma mater Harvard College
Profession Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military Service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Lieutenant
Unit Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109
  • World War II
    • Solomon Islands campaign
  • Navy and Marine Corps Medal ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Medal
  • Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart
  • American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
  • American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (3 bronze stars)
  • World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal

John FitzgeraldJackKennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his death in 1963.

After military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boats PT-109 and PT-59 during World War II in the South Pacific, Kennedy represented Massachusetts’ 11th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953 as a Democrat. Thereafter, he served in the U.S. Senate from 1953 until 1960. Kennedy defeated Vice President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the 1960 U.S. presidential election. At 43 years of age, he is the youngest to have been elected to the office, the second-youngest President (after Theodore Roosevelt), and the first person born in the 20th century to serve as president. A Catholic, Kennedy is the only non-Protestant president, and is the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. Events during his presidency included the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African-American Civil Rights Movement, and early stages of the Vietnam War. Therein, Kennedy increased the number of military advisers, special operation forces, and helicopters in an effort to curb the spread of communism in South East Asia. The Kennedy administration adopted the policy of the Strategic Hamlet Program which was implemented by the South Vietnamese government. It involved certain forced relocation, village internment, and segregation of rural South Vietnamese from the northern and southern communist insurgents.

Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the crime, but he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby two days later, before a trial could take place. The FBI and the Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. However, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that those investigations were flawed and that Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. Kennedy’s controversial Department of Defense TFX fighter bomber program led to a Congressional investigation that lasted from 1963 to 1970. Since the 1960s information concerning Kennedy’s private life has come to light. Details of Kennedy’s health problems in which he struggled have become better known, especially since the 1990s. Although initially kept secret from the general public, reports of Kennedy’s philandering have garnered much press. Kennedy ranks highly in public opinion ratings of U.S. presidents.

Early Life and Education

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born at 83 Beals Street in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917, the second son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and Rose Fitzgerald; Rose was the eldest child of John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, a prominent Boston political figure who was the city’s mayor and a three-term member of Congress. Kennedy’s ancestry was predominantly Irish with all eight of his great-grandparents immigrated from Ireland. Kennedy lived in Brookline for ten years and attended Edward Devotion School, Noble and Greenough Lower School, and the Dexter School, through 4th grade. In 1927, the family moved to 5040 Independence Avenue in Riverdale, Bronx, New York City; two years later, they moved to 294 Pondfield Road in Bronxville, New York, where Kennedy was a member of Scout Troop 2. Kennedy spent summers with his family at their home in Hyannisport, Massachusetts, and Christmas and Easter holidays with his family at their winter home in Palm Beach, Florida. For the 5th through 7th grade, Kennedy attended Riverdale Country School, a private school for boys. For 8th grade in September 1930, the 13-year old Kennedy attended Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut. In late April 1931, he required an appendectomy, after which he withdrew from Canterbury and recuperated at home.

In September 1931, Kennedy was sent to The Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut, for his 9th through 12th grade years. His older brother, Joe Jr., had already been at Choate for two years, a football star and leading student. Jack spent his first years at Choate in his brother’s shadow, and compensated for this with rebellious behavior that attracted a coterie. Their most notorious stunt was to explode a toilet seat with a powerful firecracker. In the ensuing chapel assembly, the strict headmaster, George St. John, brandished the toilet seat and spoke of certain “muckers” who would “spit in our sea”. The defiant Jack Kennedy took the cue and named his group “The Muckers Club”, which included roommate and friend Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings. While at Choate, Kennedy was beset by health problems that culminated in 1934 with his emergency hospitalization at Yale – New Haven Hospital. In June 1934 he was admitted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and diagnosed with colitis. Kennedy graduated from Choate in June 1935. For the school yearbook, of which he had been business manager, Kennedy was voted the “most likely to succeed”.

Kennedy family at Hyannisport in 1931 with Jack at top left in white shirt
Kennedy family at Hyannisport in 1931 with Jack at top left in white shirt

In September 1935, he made his first trip abroad, with his parents and sister Kathleen, to London, with the intent of studying under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics (LSE), as his older brother Joe had done. Ill health forced his return to America in October 1935, when he enrolled late and spent six weeks at Princeton University. He was then hospitalized for observation at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He convalesced further at the Kennedy winter home in Palm Beach, then spent the spring of 1936 (along with his older brother Joe) working as a ranch hand on the 40,000 acres (160 km2) “Jay Six” cattle ranch outside Benson, Arizona. It is reported that ranchman Jack Speiden worked both brothers “very hard”.

In September 1936, Kennedy enrolled at Harvard College, where he produced that year’s annual “Freshman Smoker”, called by a reviewer “an elaborate entertainment, which included in its cast outstanding personalities of the radio, screen and sports world”. He tried out for the football, golf, and swim teams and earned a spot on the varsity swim team. In July 1937 Kennedy sailed to France—bringing his convertible—and spent ten weeks driving through Europe with Billings. In June 1938 Kennedy sailed overseas with his father and brother Joe to work with his father, who was then Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, at the American embassy in London. In 1939 Kennedy toured Europe, the Soviet Union, the Balkans, and the Middle East in preparation for his Harvard senior honors thesis. He then went to Czechoslovakia and Germany before returning to London on September 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland. On September 3, 1939, the family was in the House of Commons for speeches endorsing the United Kingdom’s declaration of war on Germany. Kennedy was sent as his father’s representative to help with arrangements for American survivors of the SS Athenia, before flying back to the U.S. from Foynes, Ireland, to Port Washington, New York on his first transatlantic flight.

As an upperclassman at Harvard, Kennedy became a more serious student and developed an interest in political philosophy. In his junior year he made the Dean’s List. In 1940 Kennedy completed his thesis, “Appeasement in Munich”, about British participation in the Munich Agreement. The thesis became a bestseller under the title Why England Slept. He graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor of Science cum laude in international affairs in 1940. Kennedy enrolled and audited classes at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that fall. In early 1941, he helped his father write a memoir of his three years as an American ambassador and then traveled throughout South America.

Military Service

In September 1941, after medical disqualification by the Army for his chronic lower back problems, Kennedy joined the U.S. Navy, with the influence of the director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, former naval attaché to Joseph Kennedy. Kennedy was an ensign serving in the office of the Secretary of the Navy when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. He attended the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Training Center, was assigned duty in Panama and later in the Pacific theater, where he earned the rank of lieutenant, commanding a patrol torpedo (PT) boat.

Lieutenant (junior grade) John F. Kennedy (standing at right) with his PT-109 crew

On August 2, 1943, Kennedy’s boat, PT-109, along with PT-162 and PT-169, were performing nighttime patrols near New Georgia in the Solomon Islands, when PT-109 was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. Kennedy gathered his surviving crew members together in the water around the wreckage, to vote on whether to “fight or surrender”. Kennedy stated, “There’s nothing in the book about a situation like this. A lot of you men have families and some of you have children. What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose.” Shunning surrender, the men swam towards a small island. Kennedy, despite re-injury to his back in the collision, towed a badly burned crewman through the water with a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth. He towed the wounded man to the island, and later to a second island, from where his crew was subsequently rescued. For these actions, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal with the following citation:

For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Theater on August 1–2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Kennedy on his navy patrol boat, the PT-109
Kennedy on his navy patrol boat, the PT-109

In October 1943, Kennedy took command of a PT boat converted into a gun boat, PT-59, which took part in a Marine rescue on Choiseul Island that November. Kennedy then left PT-59, and returned to the United States in early January 1944. After receiving treatment for his back injury, he was released from active duty in late 1944. Kennedy was honorably discharged in early 1945, just prior to Japan’s surrender. Kennedy’s other decorations in World War II included the Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars, and the World War II Victory Medal. When later asked how he became a war hero, Kennedy joked: “It was easy. They cut my PT boat in half.”

In April 1945, Kennedy’s father, a friend of William Randolph Hearst, arranged a position for his son as a special correspondent for Hearst Newspapers; the assignment kept Kennedy’s name in the public eye and “expose[d] him to journalism as a possible career.” He worked as a correspondent that May, covering the Potsdam Conference and other events.

Congressional Career

House of Representatives

While Kennedy was still serving, his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., was killed in action on August 12, 1944, while part of Operation Aphrodite. Since Joe Jr. had been the family’s political standard-bearer, the task now fell to John.

In 1946, U.S. Representative James Michael Curley vacated his seat in the strongly Democratic 11th Congressional district in Massachusetts—at Joe’s urging—to become mayor of Boston. Kennedy ran for the seat, beating his Republican opponent by a large margin. He served as a congressman for six years.


In the 1952 election, he defeated incumbent Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. for the U.S. Senate seat. The following year he was married to Jacqueline.

Kennedy lying on a gurney following spinal surgery, accompanied by Jackie, December 1954

Kennedy underwent several spinal operations over the following two years. Often absent from the Senate, he was at times critically ill and received Catholic last rites. During his convalescence in 1956, he published Profiles in Courage, a book about U.S. Senators who risked their careers for their personal beliefs, and which received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957. Rumors that this work was co-authored by his close adviser and speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, were confirmed in Sorensen’s 2008 autobiography. In the book, Kennedy supported the conservative Southern view that Reconstruction was corrupt.

At the 1956 Democratic National Convention, Kennedy was nominated for Vice President on a ticket with presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, but finished second in the balloting to Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. Kennedy received national exposure from that episode; his father thought it just as well that his son lost, due to the political debility of his Catholicism and the strength of the Eisenhower ticket.

One of the matters demanding Kennedy’s attention in the Senate was President Eisenhower’s bill for the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Kennedy cast a procedural vote on this, which was considered by some as an appeasement of Southern Democratic opponents of the bill. Kennedy did vote for Title III of the act, which would have given the Attorney General powers to enjoin, but Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson agreed to let the provision die as a compromise measure. Kennedy also voted for Title IV, termed the “Jury Trial Amendment”. Many civil rights advocates at the time criticized that vote as one which would weaken the act. A final compromise bill, which Kennedy supported, was passed in September 1957. In 1958, Kennedy was re-elected to a second term in the Senate, defeating his Republican opponent, Boston lawyer Vincent J. Celeste, by a wide margin. It was during his re-election campaign that Kennedy’s press secretary at this time Robert E Thompson, put together a film entitled The U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy Story, which exhibited a day in the life of the Senator and showcased his family life as well as the inner-workings of his office. It is the most comprehensive film produced about Kennedy up to that time.