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Letters reveal Obama’s Kenyan father refused to acknowledge son

The Kenyan father of the most powerful man in the world forgot to mention he had a son and a wife while applying for scholarships and grants to study at Harvard in the 1960s. Newly released letters written by President Barack Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr, paint the portrait of man a ready to cast his young family aside in pursuit of his ambitions. Perhaps that is the reason the president hasn’t read the letters yet.



President Barack Obama’s father appears to have had a short memory when it came to remembering he had a wife a child in the United States. Newly released letters show that Barack Hussein Obama Sr made no mention of the fact that he was married to the future US president’s mother and had a child with her as he applied for a scholarship and a grant to tide him over as he pursued his studies at Harvard.

The New York Times has for the first time made public the letters written by Obama’s father in the 50’s and 60’s. The letters were discovered at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, US a few years ago. The centre provided scholarships to needy but bright students from Africa. Obama’s father was one of the students who benefitted from the study-in-America scheme.

Left out out Obama and his mom

Obama Snr, described as a brilliant mind by many of his contemporaries, married president Obama’s mother Ann Dunham, his classmate, while studying at the University of Hawaii. At the time he already had a wife and two children in Kenya. The future president would be born in 1961. However, as the Times reports, these details about his family situation would slip the older Obama’s mind when it came to applying for scholarships and grants.


“But Barack Obama Sr. never mentioned his new wife and son, not even in his scholarship applications.  In 1963, as he applied for a grant to help cover his graduate studies at Harvard, Barack Obama Sr. was asked on a financial aid form about his marital status and number of dependents. He left the section blank.”

In the same piece, however, the Times quotes Obama Snr’s youngest brother Said Obama who stressed that the letters should not be taken to mean his brother didn’t love his son. President Obama’s uncle said his brother, then back in Kenya, often showed off his America son’s photographs and schools progress reports.

For Said Obama, those were the actions of a man who loved his son.

“I don’t think you do such things if you don’t love your son,” he said.

Obama Snr, described as a brilliant mind by many of his contemporaries, married president Obama’s mother Ann Dunham, his classmate, while studying at the University of Hawaii

 The President is yet to read the letters

The cover of President Barack Obama's 1995 book Dreams

The cover of President Barack Obama’s 1995 book “Dreams from My Father.

Obama Snr’s marriage to Ann Dunham had fallen apart by 1962. In 1964 he returned to Kenya after finishing his studies at Harvard. He would only get to see his son one more time when he was 10 years old. In his 1995 book “Dreams from My Father” Obama wrote of the pain and sense of loss he felt growing up without his father.

Given the painful memories they are bound to stir up, it’s a small wonder then that president Obama is yet to read the letters himself. The Schomburg Center asked president Obama to pay a visit to see the letters in 2013 but he is yet to come by.