While a sophomore at the University of Hawaii in 1961, the president’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was under scrutiny by federal immigration officials who were concerned that he had more than one wife, according to the Globe. Having more than one wife was grounds for deportation back to Kenya.
“When he was questioned by the school’s foreign student adviser, the 24-year-old Obama insisted that he had divorced his wife in his native Kenya. Although his new wife, Ann Dunham, was five months pregnant with their child—who would be called Barack Obama II—Obama declared that they intended to put their child up for adoption,” the Globe reports.
The revelations are part of Sally H. Jacobs’ new book The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father. Jacobs is basing her book on 1961 immigration forms she obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, as well as interviews.
The book excerpt, which appeared in the Globe, indicates that it isn’t clear whether the senior Obama truly intended to put his son up for adoption or if he was making up the story to avoid trouble with immigration officials. Specifically, the elder Obama told immigration officials that Dunham was “making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away.”
“Ann Dunham had good reason to consider surrendering her child,” Jacobs writes. “At the time that she gave birth in 1961, Dunham was just 18 years old, and mixed-race marriage—while legal in Hawaii—was a felony in many of the 22 states in which it was banned. Even in Hawaii, the only state at the time with a nonwhite majority, blacks accounted for less than 1 percent of the population, and a black face drew curious stares on the streets of Honolulu.”
Among others, Jacobs interviewed former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who said the president was unaware of any plans for adoption and did not believe his mother had seriously considered giving him up.
“I never heard any talk of adoption whatsoever,” Charles Payne, Dunham’s uncle, told Jacobs. “Ann decided she had done this and this was her child and she was going to take care of him. From day one, as far as I could tell, she and Madelyn [Dunham] and Stanley [Dunham] were all completely committed to Barack.”