Secret UK Files List President Obama's Father
> Bazi Kanani
Apr 19, 2012 2:30pm
While the United Kingdom was violently suppressing a revolt against its rule
in East Africa, the United States was in the middle of a growing civil
rights movement. According to previously secret government files released
in the UK today, it was during that time in 1959 when British colonial
officials provided the name of President Obama's father and other Kenyan
students in America to the United States government.
"If we contextualize this, it's fair to say the US and UK were like-minded
in their views on race," said Harvard historian Caroline Elkins, whose
research into the UK's colonial practices in Kenya helped lead to the
According to British media reports, one of the files reveals US officials
told a British diplomat that Kenyan students had a reputation for "falling
into bad hands" and "becoming both anti-American and anti-white."
It does not specify what is meant by "bad hands," but the file shows British
colonial authorities were annoyed by claims made by a US-based group helping
to fund the Kenyan students' education, including a grant to Barack Obama
Sr., who was the first African student at the University of Hawaii.
The African American Students Foundation-supported by black American
celebrities including Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Jackie
Robinson-said it was providing scholarships to Kenyan students because
higher education was not available to them in their country at that time.
The BBC reports diplomats at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., denied
the claim and accused the AASF of having objectives that were more political
"There were some limited opportunities for those Kenyans who supported the
colonial state or certain missionaries, but there were by no means the kinds
of opportunities in Kenya as there were in the United States," said Elkins.
President Obama writes about the life of his estranged Kenyan father in his
memoir, "Dreams from My Father." The elder Barack Obama was 23 when he
enrolled at the University of Hawaii. A year later he met and soon married
American student Ann Dunham, the president's mother. Obama went on to earn
a graduate degree at Harvard University and became an economist in Kenya.
He died in a car crash in the capital city of Nairobi in 1982.
The list of Kenyan students drawn up by British colonial officials is among
thousands of documents kept secret by the British government until it was
forced to release them by a court order. The old documents shed light on
brutal British practices to maintain power in Kenya and dozens of other
former colonies and protectorates. They will likely be used as evidence in
a lawsuit brought against the United Kingdom last year by four survivors of
Kenya's Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s. Kenya's Human Rights Commission say
tens of thousands of Kenyans were executed, tortured, or wounded in the
fight for independence.
"Kenya was in a state of emergency. The British were fighting an all-out war
and using unprecedented, unbridled torture to repress the struggle for
independence," Elkins said.
The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Imperial Reckoning said it
does not surprise her to learn British colonial authorities told US
officials they should be concerned about Kenyan students, because at the
time officials in both countries feared people campaigning for freedom would
become dangerous extremists.
"It's ironic," said Elkins, pointing out most violent acts were committed by
British government soldiers.
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Received on Thu Apr 19 2012 - 06:41:24 EDT