This Day in Black History: Dec. 12, 1964

Jomo Kenyatta was elected the first president of the newly independent Kenya.

Posted: 12/11/2012 03:40 PM EST
This Day in Black History: Jomo Kenyatta Elected First Minister of newly independent Kenya

Jomo Kenyatta, considered to be the founding father of Kenya, was born on Oct. 20, 1893.

Born Kamai wa Ngengi in what was then called British East Africa, Kenyatta got his start in politics when he joined the East African Association (EAA) to campaign for the return of Kikuyu lands taken by white settlers when Britain claimed the country in 1920. 

When the British government considered the idea of a union with Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, Kenyatta traveled to London to discuss why this wouldn't be beneficial to the Kikuyu people.  

Kenyatta studied abroad and remained out of the country for 15 years, but in that time he kept advocating for Kikuyu rights. During World War II he met with other anti-colonialists and African nationalists to form the Pan-African Federation, a multi-national organization that sought to protect the rights of African peoples.

Shortly after returning to Kenya in September 1946, Kenyatta was asked to lead the newly formed Kenya African Union and became its president in 1947. He campaigned for Kenya's independence and after the Mau Mau Rebellion, Kenyatta was arrested by the British for his nationalist agenda and sentenced to seven years hard labor.

Despite his incarceration, his drive lived on through the people back home, and he was named president of the Kenya African Democratic Union. He was released on Aug. 21, 1961.

Kenyatta negotiated Kenya's constitution with the British government. In 1963, the African nation gained its independence with Kenyatta as prime minister. When Kenya became a republic a year later, Kenyatta became its first president on Dec. 12, 1964, and served until his death in 1978.

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(Photo: LUEDECKE/dp/LANDOV)

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