What US Immigration & Harvard Officials Had to Say About Obama’s Father

President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is not the only document about his personal life that has been under scrutiny this week. Investigative journalist Heather Smathers, writing in the weekly Arizona Independent, has brought to light other documents about Obama’s father, Barack Obama senior. These documents, written by US immigration and university officials (and available online here), offer a fascinating, and troubling, look at Obama senior’s treatment by Americans and may even offer insight into why he did not complete his doctoral studies at Harvard University.

Smathers made a Freedom of Information Act request for the US immigration service file to obtain the reports on Obama senior. As Andrew Rice writes in Capital New York, the file reveals that officials had a heightened interest in Obama senior’s relations with white women. Here are sections of the files and commentary from the Guardian, starting with 1961 memo with a statement from a Mrs McCabe, a foreign student adviser at the University of Hawaii:

Mrs McCabe further states that Subject [Obama senior] has been running around with several girls since he first arrived here and last summer she cautioned him about his playboy ways. Subject replied that he would ‘try’ to stay away from the girls.

Also discussed in the memo is Obama senior’s earlier Kenya marriage. The memo says that “polygamy is not an excludable or deportation charge,” but still states that that “the Subject be closely questioned before another extention is granted — and denial be considered.”

Obama senior is referred to within as “a slippery character” in the memos and, as the Guardian observes,

…his relationships with several women are discussed and investigated, while the question of Obama senior’s “marital problems” are repeatedly raised – in an era when interracial marriage was still illegal in many parts of the US.

In the memos, immigration officials press for more details on Obama senior’s marriages and relationships, while in a memo dated 19 May 1964 an immigration service official appears to be conspiring with Harvard University to get rid of the student:

“Obama has passed his general exams, which indicates that on academic grounds he is entitled to stay around here and write his thesis; however [Harvard] are going to try to cook something up to ease him out…. They are planning on telling him that they will not give him any money, and that he had better return to Kenya and prepare his thesis at home.”

A June 1964 by immigration officials states that Harvard officials were actually trying “to get rid” of Obama senior. His marital status was again singled out, with officials not able “to figure out how many wives he had” and not pleased about this.

Writing in Capital New York, Rice asks if Obama senior was “eased out” of the US and of Harvard precisely because of his relationships with white women:

But as someone who has spent a lot of time studying post-colonial Africa — and particularly the fascinating and emblematic story of our president’s tangled lineage — I was most interested in how the file did shed some light on a real mystery, the one that inspired Barack Obama Jr. to write a book about his absent father, one of his earliest steps into public life. Why did the president’s father leave his son, and eventually America, returning to Hawaii for just a single childhood visit?

I think the file proves, fairly conclusively, that racism drove the president’s father from the United States. I went back and forth a bit with Ben Smith (whose blog post brought this file to my attention) over whether “racism” is really the right word for the bureaucratic attitudes and actions these documents contain. There’s no use of slurs or harsh language, certainly. What I think the documents reveal, though, is a subtle, institutionalized conspiracy that in a way seems more insidious than overt cross-burning racism, because almost surely none of its participants thought of their actions as discriminatory at all. In that sense, the file is an instructive artifact, not just of our president’s biography, but of our nation’s history of conflicted attitudes about race, foreign cultures, intermarriage and sex.

There is, Rice says, a “subtext of miscegenation” in the memos, with their constant emphasis, if not a fixation, on Obama senior’s personal life — just as, in the midst of fighting three wars, addressing the jobless rate and the recession and quite a lot more, Republicans have just not been able to let go of inquiring about the President’s personal life, down to needing visual proof of his actual birth certificate.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Obama Releases Birth Certificate But The Racism Persists


photo courtesy of Violentz via Flickr


nancy dukewich
nancy B.5 years ago

Kathleen D. I agree with you about Patricia and James.
James J. So you believe we should just forget about the past as far as the Bush gang goes. Tell that to the thousands of families that lost a love one in Dubya's illegal war in Iraq. Tell that to the thousands of people who have lost limbs in Dubya's illegal war in Iraq. I wonder if they feel the same way. Would you be so quick to forget if it had been a Democrat as president? What would your reaction be if a Democrat were in office during 9/11? I have a feeling it would be alot different.

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D.5 years ago

typo...should have said "leave off" instead of.

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D.5 years ago

Lee; well said other than "read" because I'm quite sure that is an oxymoron since I would be willing to bet reading is out of the equasion. Those who toss around Communist to depict Progressives have not the intelligence it takes to 'discern' the difference because they are, well, let's just say...leave of the oxy and you've got what they are!

Lee S.
Lee S.5 years ago

Look up the word Communism get that definition out.

If you haven't read obama's book, Dreams From My Father that will give you insights into Obama what he is doing, what and who he is after and why. One of the most enlightening portion of the book is the section on Kenya.

My guess is that many of you are pretty young and you don't recall what Communism is.

The US Constitution should be taught in every grade thru college.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers5 years ago

Of course it was racism; how dare a black man date
white women. While we have made progress there is still a lot of racism, more covert than overt, in ths country. Just reading some of the comments are examples.

While racism is taught to children by parents and peers, I don't feel that is a total excuse. My maternal grandmother was the most racist, and prejudiced person I ever met. If you weren't white, anglo saxon, protestant, and rich, you weren't fit to socialize with or even acknowlege.
I could never understand why she was so hateful and therefore did not emulate her or even respect her. It seems to me that people like this do not have self confidence; but in order to feel at least "normal" must feel superior to another or others.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers5 years ago

To all of you who bash Obama please give me concrete reasons why you feel he is a bad (worst) president.

Lika S.
Lika S.5 years ago

Are we talking about the president's dad, who is not even here in this country, or our president, who is in office legitimately? I don't understand what the point is, as I don't care about who his father was, he didn't raise our president. He was an absent father, was he not?

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Brian P., I disagree that being a fan of football or any other sport means you are hiding from the real issues. What on earth is wrong with sitting back with a beer and pretzels and enjoying a game, or watching a movie? It's called "entertainment". There is a place for that, and it doesn't have to REPLACE being a responsible citizen, but merely exists to be enjoyed in ADDITION to being interested in other things. I hope I misunderstood your rationale for your post.

Brian P.
.5 years ago

Racism is alive and well in America and ignorance has a scary way of propagating...just look at how people lap up the swill served by the Repugs/TP's and call it tasty!

As long as people have their distractions like Nascar, WWE, MMA, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL etc. they don't have the time or mental capacity/desire to confront truly important issues such as poverty, homelessness, corporate abuses, human rights abuses, mismanaged government etc.

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Well said, Kathleen! Too bad I can't give you a green star for every one of your posts! I think Laurie has been properly addressed for her suspicions and continued "conspiracy theories", and I'll sit on my hands to keep from saying what I REALLY wanted to.

BTW, anyone else enjoy Mr. Obama's speech last night........where even "Da Donald" smiled and applauded? He said that he's glad the situation about his birth certificate has been laid to rest, so now everyone can get back to doing what's REALLY important....ie., what REALLY went on at Roswell, and where IS Elvis,anyway?"