The White Man’s Burden: The United States & The Philippine Islands

TitleThe White Man’s Burden: The United States & The Philippine Islands
Publication TypeWebsite
Year of Publication1899
AuthorsKipling, Rudyard

The White Man's Burden is a poem by the British Victorian poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling. While he originally wrote the poem to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Kipling revised it in 1899 to exhort the American people to conquer and rule the Philippines. Conquest in the poem is not portrayed as a way for the white race to gain individual or national wealth or power. Instead, the speaker defines white imperialism and colonialism in moral terms, as a “burden” that the white race must take up in order to help the non-white races develop civilization. Because of the poem's influential moral argument for American imperialism, it played a key role in the congressional debates about whether America should annex the Philippine Islands after the Spanish-American War. The phrase "white man's burden" remains notorious as a racist justification for Western conquest.

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