Birthday: June 18, 1936 Black Celebrities Born on June 18
Died At Age: 46
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Barack Hussein Obama Sr.
Born in: Rachuonyo District, Nyang'oma Kogelo
Famous as: Kenyan Official
Spouse/Ex-: Ann Dunham (m. 1961 – div. 1964), Kezia Obama (m. 1954 – his death. 1982), Ruth Nidesand (m. 1964 – div. 1973)
father: Hussein Onyango Obama
mother: Habiba Akumu Obama
children: Abo Obama, Auma Obama, Barack Obama, Bernard Obama, David Ndesandjo, George Obama, Malik Obama, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo
Died on: November 24, 1982
place of death: Nairobi
Cause of Death: Car Accident
Who was Barack Obama Sr.?
Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Luo Kenyan man from Nyang'oma Kogelo was a senior governmental economist in Kenya, more famous as father of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. The latter was born through Obama Sr.’s second marriage with American anthropologist, Ann Dunham. Obama Sr. was one of the beneficiaries of the African Airlifts of the 1950s-60s, the education program supported by Tom Mboya and created for African students to study at US colleges. He earned BA degree from University of Hawaii, Manoa and MA degree from Harvard University, both in economics, before returning to Kenya where he started working in an oil company. He later joined the Kenyan Ministry of Transport as an economist and eventually served the Ministry of Finance as senior economic analyst. His otherwise thriving career was badly affected due to his clashes with Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta, which saw him being fired and blacklisted in Kenya, and also striving for a job. He met with three severe car accidents of which the last one proved fatal.
Childhood & Early Life
Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was born on June 18, 1936, in Rachuonyo District, Nyang'oma Kogelo in Kenya, when the Colony and Protectorate of Kenya was part of the British Empire. He was born to Onyango (later Hussein) Obama and his second wife Habiba Akumu Nyanjango as their only son among three children. He grew up in Nyang'oma Kogelo.
In 1945, his parents separated and thereafter he and his siblings were raised by their step-mother and Onyango's third wife, Sarah Ogwel, a Kenyan educator and philanthropist.
Obama Sr.’s father served the King's African Rifles during First World War and worked as a mission cook and as a local herbalist in Nairobi. Onyango initially converted from tribal religion to Catholicism and later converted to Islam adopting the first name Hussein. According to Sarah, although Onyango passed on the name of Hussein to his children, he did not pass on the religion. This is why his family in Kenya has a mix of Seventh-day Adventists and Muslims.
Onyango was known to have spent some time in the Kamiti Prison in 1949. Sarah mentioned that he was suspected of providing military information to the Kenyan independence movement and faced torture and abuse by the British that not only left him permanently scarred but also developed an anti-British feeling in him.
Obama Sr. converted from Islam to Anglicanism at age six. He adopted the name ‘Barack’ replacing ‘Baraka’. He evolved into an atheist later in his life and considered religion was simply superstition. He studied at the Gendia Primary School and after relocating to Siaya District with family, he attended Ng'iya Intermediate School. Later he attended Maseno National School, in Maseno from 1950 to 1953.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Higher Education & Career
A monograph of Obama Sr. titled Otieno jarieko. Kitabu mar ariyo. 2: Yore mabeyo mag puro puothe was published by the Kenyan Department of Education in 1959. That year a program supported by nationalist leader Tom Mboya offering outstanding Kenyan students education opportunity in the West led Obama Sr. to earn a scholarship in economics. Among the program’s early financial supporters, adult literacy advocate Elizabeth Mooney Kirk supported Obama Sr. financially in his early years in the US as also joined hands with another literacy associate Helen M. Roberts in raising money needed for Obama Sr. to travel to America.
As Obama Sr. was moving to the US for further education, he was concerned of leaving behind his pregnant wife Kezia and son Malik. At this point Helen kept his request committing him that as long as she was in Nairobi she would financially support his family.
He became the first African foreign student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu in 1959. He obtained a B.A. degree in economics from the university and was a Phi Beta Kappa member.
In June 1962, he left Hawaii and after touring mainland US universities, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in September 1962. There he enrolled at the prestigious Harvard University and started a graduate fellowship in economics. In May 1964, he was compelled to leave his Ph.D. program and instead earned an M.A. in economics from the university in 1965.
He then returned to Kenya and initially joined an oil company as an economist. He came up with a paper in the East Africa Journal in July 1965 titled ‘Problems Facing Our Socialism’ that censured the blueprint for national planning, ‘African Socialism and Its Applicability to Planning in Kenya’.
He was inducted as an economist in the Kenyan Ministry of Transport. Eventually he received promotion and served as senior economist in the Kenyan Ministry of Finance.
The memoir of Barack Obama mentioned that Obama Sr.’s career was adversely affected due to the latter’s ongoing conflict with Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta. Shortly before assassination of Mboya in 1969, Obama Sr. had seen him and also testified at the trial that followed. Obama Sr. believed that because he gave testimony, he was targeted in a 1970 hit-and-run incident that led him to remain hospitalized for almost a year. He was fired by Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta and was blacklisted in Kenya because of which he struggled to get work.
Family & Personal Life
Obama Sr. married Kezia Aoko in Kenya in 1954 and had children Malik (a.k.a. Roy) and Auma with her in their early married life. According to Kezia, Bernard and Abo Obama are also sons of the couple born later.
While doing a basic Russian language course at the University of Hawaii, Obama Sr. met Stanley Ann Dunham in 1960 and the two began dating. Stanley dropped out of the university after becoming pregnant and eventually the two married on February 2, 1961, on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Obama Sr. informed Stanley that he was married but got divorced and Stanley could find out the truth only years later.
On August 4, 1961, Barack Obama was born to the couple at the former Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. Thereafter Stanley moved to Seattle, Washington with their son and returned to Honolulu in 1962. The couple divorced on March 20, 1964 and Stanley was granted sole custody of their son.
Obama Sr. met Jewish American suburban elementary school teacher Ruth Beatrice Baker in June 1964 in Cambridge and started dating her. He returned to Kenya in August 1964 and five weeks later Ruth moved to Kenya where the two married in a civil ceremony on December 24, 1964. Together they had two sons Mark and David. The couple divorced in 1973 after separating in 1971.
Meanwhile, Obama Sr. went to Hawaii for a month in December 1971, where he met Stanley and the ten years old Barack Obama. It marked the last time father and son met each other. Barack Obama later recalled how he became interested in both basketball and jazz and music after his father gave him his first basket ball and took him to his first jazz concert during this last father and son encounter. The memoir of Barack Obama, ‘Dreams from My Father’ (1995) where he explores his early life includes Obama Sr. as a central figure.
The second serious automobile accident of Obama Sr. claimed both his legs followed by his job after which he strived with both drinking problems and poverty.
Obama Sr.’s last son George was born in 1982 through his relationship with Jael Otinyo. George was six months old when Obama Sr. succumbed to a car accident in Nairobi on November 24, 1982. Funeral ceremony of Obama Sr. was attended by noted political personalities including ministers Peter Oloo-Aringo and Robert Ouko. He was laid to rest in Nyang'oma Kogelo.