As President Barack Obama has been dogged by claims he is not patriotic enough it now emerges that similar fears were expressed about his father, who was categorized with others as “anti-American and anti-white” when he moved to the United States in 1959.
Last year President Barack Obama even had to publish his birth certificate to silence doubters who suggested he was not born an American.
Barack Obama Sr. had grown up in Kenya under British rule and aroused the fears of both colonial officers and American officials when he won a chance to study in Hawaii. The officials felt Kenyan students were “academically inferior” with a “bad reputation” for turning anti-American.
A memo from a British diplomat in Washington to Whitehall – released yesterday by the National Archives in West London – sets out their concerns about the young Kenyans.
Dated September 1, 1959, the document says: “I have discussed with the State Department. They are as disturbed about these developments as we are. They point out that Kenya students have a bad reputation over here for falling into the wrong hands and for becoming both anti-American and anti-white.”
In one of the Foreign Office files, future president Barack Obama’s father appears on a list of Kenyan students as “OBAMA, Barack H” – they shared the same name.
At the age of 23, Barack Obama Sr. enrolled at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu to study economics with classmates including Ann Dunham, a 17-year-old white American from Kansas. The couple had a short marriage that led to the birth in 1961 of the future president, Barack Obama II.
Barack Obama Sr. was among 100 or so Kenyan students brought to America by the African American Students Foundation.
U.S. and British officials were deeply suspicious of this outfit, observing that the AASF – though backed by singer Harry Belafonte and actor Sidney Poitier – had links to a Kenyan nationalist leader.
“The motives behind this enterprise, therefore, seem more political than educational,” warned a letter from the British Embassy in Washington.
It added: “The arrival here of these students, many of them of indifferent academic calibre and ill-prepared for the venture, is likely to give rise to difficult problems.”
Barack Obama Sr., who died in 1982, is not singled out for concern in any of the documents.
After leaving Hawaii he took a PhD in economics at Harvard and later became a senior economist with the Kenyan government.