Records Show Obama’s Father Considered Putting Him Up for Adoption

Records Show Obama’s Father Considered Putting Him Up for Adoption

Documents show that the president's father had considered putting Obama up for adoption and that he also had a wife back in Kenya.

Published July 8, 2011

A Boston Globe reporter who has written a book about President Obama’s father uncovered in her research documents that assert that the president’s parents considered putting him up for adoption. In a file from 1961 about a meeting between Barack Obama, Sr., and an immigration officer, the officer wrote that Obama’s parents were married but not living together and that his mother, Ann Dunham, was making arrangements through the Salvation Army to put their child up for adoption.


In a Globe article published Thursday, Sally Jacobs, author of The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father, wrote that family members on both sides and several of Dunham’s friends said they never heard anything about the proposed adoption.


“Robert L. Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, said at the time the document was released that President Obama had never been told that his mother had considered putting him up for adoption. Nor, Gibbs said, was Obama previously aware of the INS memo,” Jacobs said. “Gibbs said that the White House had made no effort to determine if Dunham had ever had a conversation with the Salvation Army. The president, he added, ‘is absolutely convinced that she did not.’”


In addition, one of Dunham’s high school friends told Jacobs that Obama’s mother was “wildly in love” with her husband and “very excited about her future with him.” Given the times, however, when mixed-race marriage was banned in 22 states, Obama appears to have understood why adoption—or worse—might have been a consideration. In his memoir, Dreams from My Father, he wrote, “the hostile stares, the whispers, might have driven a woman in my mother’s predicament into a back-alley abortion—or at the very least to a distant convent that could arrange for adoption.”


Jacobs also discovered that there were problems surrounding Obama Sr.’s immigration status and quest to extend his visa, and questions about how many wives he had. Although he had told Dunham that he was divorced, he didn’t tell her about two children that he already had and, according to Jacobs, he was, in fact, still married. The immigration official was concerned about his “playboy ways,” Jacobs reports.


“Noting that Obama appeared to have a wife in Kenya and another in Hawaii,” Jacobs wrote, an immigration official “raised the possibility of charging Obama with polygamy or bigamy in order to get a deportation order against him. In the end, he suggested they keep an eye on him.”


Soon after, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he pursued a doctorate in economics at Harvard—and met his third wife.


(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)

Written by Joyce Jones


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