Q131: Name one U.S. territory.

a. Puerto Rico
b. Guam
c. U.S. Virgin Islands
d. All of the above

Question Background Information

In addition to the 50 states and the federal District of Columbia, the United States has several territories. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are found to the southeast, in the Caribbean Sea, while Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands are in the Pacific Ocean.  Except for American Samoa, residents of all of these have been gradually extended U.S. citizenship by Congress.

Puerto Rico and Guam were acquired in the Spanish American War. The United States assumed responsibility for the defense of the Northern Marianas Islands, formerly held by Japan, after World War II; the relationship eventually evolved to have a commonwealth status. The American part of Samoa was added in the late 19th century. (The German occupied part of Samoa passed into the administration of New Zealand after World War I before becoming independent in 1962, first as Western Samoa then simply Samoa.) 

The Philippines, which was acquired in the Spanish American War (at the same time as Guam and Puerto Rico) was a territory for roughly fifty years before being granted independence after World War II.

Additional Content

Discussion Prompts

The United States controls numerous territories around the globe, including Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. While the people there are under the protection of the government and are in most cases U.S. citizens, since the territories are not states they send a non-voting delegate, rather than voting representatives, to Congress.

Prompt 1: 

The United States has a number of territories in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Each one has its own culture and form of government, and none of them have the same rights of states. Name one U.S. territory. Can you name any others?

Prompt 2

Initially, American territories were a part of the contiguous United States and places that were destined for statehood. But since the late 19th century, the country has added territories farther away, some of which have little to no trajectory of statehood (on the part of either residents or the US government), relatively little settlement from the mainland United States, and which are instead closer to guarantees of providing defensive protection. Some have argued this is a perfectly acceptable arrangement, provided that the people there are not seeking independence. Others argue that having such a relationship is more consistent with an empire, not a federal republic of states. Is permanent territorial status consistent with the American system? Or should the United States offer territories the choice of statehood or independence?