In his three years as U.S. president, Barack Obama has been dogged by claims he is not patriotic enough.
Last year he even had to publish his birth certificate to silence doubters who suggested he was not born an American.
Now it emerges that similar fears were expressed about his father, who was categorised with others as ‘anti-American and anti-white’ when he moved to the United States in 1959.
Mr Obama Snr 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 today by the National Archives in West London – sets out their concerns about the young Kenyans.
Dated September 1, 1959, it 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, the future president’s father appears on a list of Kenyan students as ‘OBAMA, Barack H’ – they shared the same name.
At the age of 23, he 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.
Mr Obama Snr 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.’
Mr Obama Snr, 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.
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