Student Activity

The Spanish–American War

Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill
Photo caption

Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill.

On April 11, 1898, two months after the battleship U.S.S. Maine was destroyed by an explosion in Havana harbor, President McKinley sent a message to Congress requesting authority to use the U.S. armed forces to end a brutal civil war in the Spanish colony of Cuba.

In this activity, you and your group will be researching the various different aspects of this war to create a magazine with the goal of determining if its nickname, "The splendid little war," is justified. And, how this one war, changed American diplomacy forever.

The activity is available at this link: Reporting the War. In addition to the questions and resources included in the interactive, there are additional guiding questions and primary source collections compiled below.

Guiding Questions

  • What was the role of "yellow journalism" in the Spanish-American War?
  • Cuban independence is often described as an outcome of the Spanish-American War. To what extent was this actually the case?
  • Conduct a close analysis of a political cartoon from either the Spanish-American or Philippine-American War (many examples can be found at the Library of Congress and Photography and Power in the Colonial Philippines).
    • Is the cartoon critical or supportive of the war? Why? How do you know?
    • How are actors in the conflict represented?
    • Who was the intended audience of the cartoon?
    • How does the cartoon represent the expansion of U.S. power?
  • What was the response of literary figures to the Spanish-American War and its aftermath? Select one of the Puerto Rican or Cuban authors from The World of 1898 and research their response to the war and subsequent U.S. policy in the Caribbean.
  • While Cuba and the Philippines are now independent, Puerto Rico and Guam remain U.S. territories.
    • What is the legal status of Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans? What kinds of representation do they have in U.S. government?

Primary Sources