The African Race

Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah

When people decide what to believe in, sometimes they hang their faith on small things, things that are intuitive and meaningful especially to them.

Those who believe that Barack Obama was born in Africa have precious little to hang their beliefs on. Some hang their belief on the edited version of an audio recording that seems to show Obama’s grandmother saying that he was born in Kenya (not so in the unedited version). Some believe that a name on an Indonesian school record trumps everything. Some believe that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery because it contains the word “African”.

Here is a statement of the African objection:

In 1961 when Barack Obama was born, no one in the US used the term “African” as a race. A birth certificate wouldn’t have been filled out that way by a hospital. An authentic birth record would say Obama Sr. was a “negro”. Only a young, modern, perhaps African American and politically correct forger would have made such a mistake.

It turns out that’s wrong.

Race on a birth certificate doesn’t come from a hospital worker looking at the father and writing down the father’s race; it is determined by asking the father what he considers his race to be. This is the instruction for filling out a birth certificate from the National Center for Health Statistics:

25. FATHER’S RACE (Check one or more races to indicate what the father considers himself to be)
▢ White
▢ Black or African American
▢ American Indian or Alaska Native (Name of the enrolled or principal tribe)________________
▢ Asian Indian
▢ Chinese
▢ Filipino
▢ Japanese
▢ Korean
▢ Vietnamese
▢ Other Asian (Specify)______________________________
▢ Native Hawaiian
▢ Guamanian or Chamorro
▢ Samoan
▢ Other Pacific Islander (Specify)______________________
▢ Other (Specify)___________________________________

So clearly the question is not how Americans described Africans, but how Africans described Africans in 1961, which brings us to the featured Kwame Nkruma. Nkruma was an influential 20th century advocate of Pan-Africanism, and the leader of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966. In his in his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, he wrote:

I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.

Africans had been speaking of the “African race” since at least the 19th century. African nationalist John Chilembwe of Nyassaland said:

“to unite together in the name of Jesus Christ such persons as desire to see full justice done to the African race and are resolved to work towards the day when African people shall become an African Christian nation”…”to pursue steadily and unswervingly the policy of ‘Africa for Africans!’”

Considerations on the African Question
(1894) page 159.

Africanus Horton (1835-1883), also known as James Beale, was a Creole writer and folklorist from Freetown, Sierra Leone. His 1868 book was A Vindication of the African Race.

See also:

  • Edward Blyden, the West Indian Negro who settled in Liberia as early as 1850, was probably the first man to use the term “African Personality.” He explained this term by writing that, “ Every race has a soul, and the soul of a race finds expression in its institutions.” He went on to write in 1888 that, he would rather be a member of the African race, than a Greek in the time of Alexander, a Roman in the Augustan period, or an Anglo-Saxon in the nineteenth century.A History of African Unity
  • Pan-Africans thought that there were some characteristics of the African race that distinguished it from other races. One of the essential elements of this race was that religiously Africans were bound together. For that reason they should have one system of belief (J. S. Mbiti 1969)John Samuel Mbiti, theologian, author, teacher and pastor, called “the father of contemporary African theology,” was born on Monday, November 30th, 1931 in Mulango, Kitui, Kenya.


An industrious proponent of the African objection has dug up a volume, Vital Statistics of the United States – 1961 that talks about the classification. I first referenced that document last year in my article: Obama Birth Certificate Number proves it’s a fake – busted. The document contains this interesting statement:

Births in the United States in 1961 are classified for vital statistics into white, Negro, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Aleut, Eskimo, Hawaiian and Part-Hawaiian (combined), and “other nonwhite.”

For “vital statistics” purposes, the races of infants were classified into one of those categories. However, this statement is about “births” not parents. For parents, as we have seen above, race is self-declared and open-ended. Now take a look at the famous “Alan” hospital birth certificate and tell me what race Alan was. WOW! It’s not on the form! The hospital didn’t report the race of the child, only that of the father and mother. This is because the child’s race was not self reported, it was classified later. In the case of Barack Obama, the clerk would have looked at the father’s race: “African” and the mother’s race: “Caucasian” and written down (by the rules of 1961) “Negro” on the tally sheet.

Update 2:

The preceding statement that a clerk would have selected “Negro” is not correct. For someone born outside the United States, the term “African” does not necessarily mean the person is black. There are white, Arab and Asian persons living in Africa. Most likely, Obama’s father’s race would have gone down as “unknown.”

The key point is the classification scheme for infant race is unrelated to the self-reporting of race by the infant’s parents.

In 1961 Kenya itself, the suggested racial categories for its census were:

  • African
  • Arab
  • Somali
  • European

About Dr. Conspiracy

I'm not a real doctor, but I have a master's degree.
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52 Responses to The African Race

  1. richCares says:

    Those of you attending college in the 60’s knew African Exchange students and you all know most referred to their race as “African”, the term “Negro” was never used by them. That was true when I attended University of Hawaii 1960/1964.

    In Hawaii Chinese is listed as a race by parents as is Japanese and Pilipino and Hawaiian and Portuguese etc. Under the race listing, my daughter is listed as dual race, Father = Polish & Mother = Japanese. (not Caucasian & Asian).

    Birthers are very dumb!

  2. richCares says:

    Forgot to mention, look at the list presented for you to check in Doc’s comment. That list was true today as well as in 1961. It consists mostly of nationalities rather than the simplistic mainland version of races. When presented with such a list of nationalities and asked to submit race, you most likely will also list a nationality, and note that negro is not on the list, though “Black or African American” is. Not being African American what would Obama’s father write? African sounds quite reasonable.

  3. Zuzu says:

    I was just about to post a link to this Hawaiian certification of live birth from 1930, when I saw your comment.

    Notice the father’s race is listed as “White” and the mother’s is listed as “Caucasian Hawaiian.”

  4. Zuzu says:

    Meaning I agree with you that it looks like people just wrote what they thought was important.

  5. That link is actually a fairly important find because it proves that the Hawaiian computer system can handle “Other” race values. Some state systems don’t do that for older records.

  6. If Barack Obama’s other orifice could speak, what would he say?(parody) BHO Taileprompter

  7. Gordon says:

    Anyone who is a parent should know how this process works.

  8. myson says:

    You need to be clearer with your sh*t !!!

  9. Heavy says:

    Yes, birthers are VERY dumb. They are SO dumb that they say things like “All he needs to do is show the damn thing” or “Gee, I thought Africa was a continent not a country”. What a bunch of DUMMIES!

  10. Heavy says:

    Yes, I’m North American!

  11. Heavy says:

    This would all go away if THE ONE would just comply with the request. But then what would you people do with all that extra time?

  12. richCares says:

    “Gee, I thought Africa was a continent not a country”.
    what’s Gov. Palin got to do with this thread?

  13. NBC says:

    President Obama has complied with the request and released a Certification of Live Birth, which is prima facie legal evidence and which states that the city of birth is Honolulu.

    It’s up to Heavy to explain away this data point.

    Shown wrong again about the ‘african race’, Heavy seems to have remained, once again, without any argument.

  14. HistorianDude says:

    Another example is this “Certificate of Live Birth” from Hawaii dated 1973.

    This was before the Hawaiian records were computerized, so it is hand typed rather than a computer printout. The actual birth was in 1907. Notice the following key features:

    1. It is an abstract of the “vault certificate,” lacking the same information as Obama’s COLB such as hospital, doctor’s name, etc. Yet is is a CERTICATE rather than a CERTIFICATION of live birth, demonstrating that the words (as understood by the Hawaiian DoH) are identical in meaning.

    2. It notes the father’s race as “American.”

    Now… “American” is no more or less a “race” than “African.” And yet is managed to find its way onto a Hawaiian birth ceritifcate.

    Go figure.

  15. HistorianDude says:

    Well… for starters, yes, the statement “All he needs to do is show the damn thing” is spectacularly dumb. Anyone who has bothered to actually read any of the Birther cases filed would have figured out quickly that showing the “damn thing? would have ended not a single one of those cases. You HAVE read the cases, right? This does not take into account the Birthers on many sites have already preemptively declared the “damn thing” a forgery, sight unseen.

    Second, whether Africa is a “continent” or a “country” is unrelated to whether or not African is a “race.” So, the fact that Birthers would make the comment “Gee, I thought Africa was a continent not a country” in relationship to this issue is, yes, dumb.

  16. richCares says:

    this certificate shows race as American, heavy has told us his says North American, that’s wrong, he’s lying, nobody used the term North American for race, they just used the term American, this is proof.

  17. rachk says:

    Race is a social construct anyway. Totally arbitrary. Which is, of course, why there would be anything to debate in the first place.

  18. Liz says:

    True story: My first husband was Italian and we got married in the States. They put his race as “Italian”!

  19. Liz says:

    True story: My first husband was Italian and we got married in the States. They put his race as “Italian” on the marriage license!!

  20. Whatever4 says:

    I stumbled across the site (which you have in your bookmarks link), and found something on the African Race question that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a page of instructions from the Kenyan 1962 census.

    “Race.- Write European, Arab, Somali, or African, etc. Asians must write Indian or Pakistan.”

    Seems pretty straightforward that Obama Sr. would put African on a form if that was how things were viewed in his home country.

  21. Pingback: Sarah Palin Goes Birther: Obama Birth Certificate 'A Fair Question' (video) - Page 9 - Political Wrinkles

  22. Pingback: Sarah Palin Goes Birther: Obama Birth Certificate 'A Fair Question' (video) - Page 11 - Political Wrinkles

  23. Wondering says:

    I am not suggesting that the presented document is authentic or a forgery, I am simply pointing out an interesting oddity.

    I reviewed your reference to the “National Center for Health Statistics” and as of today your are correct, those are the accepted terms. However reviews of 1960 and 1970 census descriptions of race make no reference to African American or African. These terms and references did not surface until 20 years later. To date the option of African is not used as it denotes a continent not a race. By that description my great grand father was African, which would be very misleading as he was white and his father was from Holland. He was born in Africa as are many other races.

    This in of itself does not deem this document to be a forgery nor does it substantiate the claim of authenticity. In fact it leaves the document in a very gray area.

    Further the presentation of a single document neither confirms nor denies someones place of birth. Generally there is supporting documentation. Records of the individuals history even in the 1960’s are many.

    I find the simplest solution to an problem includes transparency, everyone has a historic trail of documentation. Simply make it available and the issue is dead. Refuse and you become very suspect.

  24. nbC says:

    The race is filled out by the parents and there are no predescribed options on the earlier forms. I believe the CDC now has a list of options.

  25. aarrgghh says:

    wondering, so he claims, but not really:

    “Further the presentation of a single document neither confirms nor denies someones place of birth. Generally there is supporting documentation.”

    apparently you stopped wondering why states issue birth certificates: so that people don’t need to track down “supporting documentation” …

    look up “prima facie” while you wonder about that:

    “In most jurisdictions, the birth certificate is prima facie evidence that the birth occurred.”

  26. Paul Pieniezny says:

    You entirely missed the point Doc was making: even then, in Hawaii, the hospital wrote down on their registration forms the race of the parents according to what the parents told them. Obama’s father, who was not “African American” like most black inhabitants of Africa hated the word “Negro”. African was the term people like him preferred. So that was how he reported himself.

    “Further the presentation of a single document neither confirms nor denies someones place of birth.” Oh yes it does, that is what these documents are made for. If you cannot prove forgery (and do not forget the Republican administration of Hawaii has confirmed they have Obama’s birth record on file) that is prima facie evidence. “Records of the individuals history even in the 1960’s are many.” Gee, except for me myself, the six names mentioned on my original birth certificate (doctor and mayor, both over 60, parents, both over 35, two witnesses, both over 50) are all dead. I guess that means I was born in Mombassa? “Simply make it available and the issue is dead.” No, it would not be. Berg and his birfer acolytes would still go on about Indonesia, and Orly and her twofer smerds would continue to cite some macho Swiss philosopher from the 18th century. In other words, they are just looking for a stick to hit the uppity ni**a with.

    The discussion about African being from a continent and not a race reminds me of a joke by Rowan Atkison: “The police cannot be racist. The police has to fight racism, so the police being racist is like the pot telling the kettle African American”.

  27. thisoldhippie says:

    As for the “trail of historic documents” I have to say that if you were born in 1961 or 1962 please request the medical records from the hospital where you were born. They usually only keep them for 10 years and after that they are destroyed. In geneology the records that are usually researched are birth certificate, census records, marriage certificates, and death certificates. If you are lucky there might be private records left by family members.

  28. Mary Brown says:

    I could accept your theory if Obama’s father were American. He was not. He was an African who was part of an independence movement that included strong belief in an African identity. His father would have filled in African but never negro or black. He would not have had that identity.

  29. SFJeff says:

    “Further the presentation of a single document neither confirms nor denies someones place of birth.”

    According the U.S. Government it does. When I applied for my drivers license thats all I had. When I applied for my Passport, I believe I gave a copy of my BC.

    Now that I have my Passport, that is always accepted as confirmation of my birth and citizenship.

    Really think about this- those supporting documents are all far easier to be tampered with than a Birth Certificate on file with the appropriate agency.

  30. nbC: I believe the CDC now has a list of options.

    Plus a box labeled “Other: (specify)”.

  31. Wondering, did you even READ the article you commented on?

  32. nbC says:

    Very unlikely… It’s all about recycling really, especially under fake ‘I am just wondering’…

  33. ballantine says:

    Hey, is suddenly a moderated blog. Why are comments waiting in moderation?

  34. myson says:

    I shd add that as a Nigerian when in American i generally refer to myself as African as pple would ask where are from & u reply Nigeria”, they look at you funny wondering if that even a country then u say “Africa” then they get it. My cousin moved to the USA in the early ’90s & now refers to coming to Nigeria as coming to “Africa” (which we find annoying as she’s Nigerian).
    Until the recent undie bomber incident i am sure 90% of the pple in the USA didnt kno where Nigeria was !!!
    Africans have always refered to themselves as “Africans” in the USA so as to distinguish themselves from the other blacks as pple tend to understand us better (our dressing , aacents, attitudes etc)wen we say we are “African ” rather than just black or horrors “African American” or Negros etc. One can generally tell a proper African from an AA (no offence intended Riskey)
    Hope this helps to clarify why an African will call himself an African in American

  35. Black Lion says:

    Are you having flashbacks to the ROSL site? Since now it is moderated and become a 100% birther site? I guess when you started discrediting Linda and Steve Craig’s ridiculous theories they whined and it once again became moderated. The birthers can’t stand being proven wrong. So they continually post on site like FR, the Post and Fail, and similar sites.

  36. misha says:

    Don’t let logic get in the way of birthers.

  37. Parker Rules says:

    Just a couple of months ago I was wondering what all the hoopla was about. Then when I saw the birth certificate posted on the “African” for race for Father jumped out to me.In 1971 I was a birth certificate hospital clerk that went to the room & gathered the information from the mother and even if the mother had stated or filled out the information as “African” I would have to call or contact that mother even if she had gone home to find out the race of the Father since other races other than Blacks lived there. In this case I would have given the mother a choice that would have even in 1971 been the now not so PC word “Negro”. Since then I have seen a blank form that the hospital clerk in Hawaii in 1961 would have had to fill out and it was the same as the ones I did in 1971 in Missouri and it was just a list that gets checked by the appropriate box. Since his father’s place of birth is already shown it is only common sense that the Race should show race not Nationality.

  38. Parker Rules says:

    I suppose Alan Keyes, a black man, is also racist?? He is the first one I know that confronted Obama in 2004 in a senatorial debate about his origin of birth. To which Obama’s response was “Well, I’m not running for POTUS”. As a constitutional lawyer Obama knew back then that you could be even a naturalized citizen and run for any office in the US EXCEPT POTUS.Only that office holds the office also as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and must not have a conflict of allegiance to any other country whereby he would have a conflict in carrying out his duties in any War activity declared. The COLB as posted is an certified record that A BIRTH CERTIFICATE exists on record acknowledging that he is a citizen of the US but does not prove that he is NATURAL BORN…BECAUSE THERE ARE 5 TYPES OF BIRTH CERTIFICATES THAT COULD BE ON RECORD THAT WOULD SHOW THE SAME THING…One includes births that occur in the home or if the mother shows previous residence in Hawaii, went to Kenya, had the baby there, returned and then filled out the blank birth certificate and would have sent it in. The birth announcement in the newspapers do not show that it was records obtained from any hospital…it is 13 days after the birth which means it could have been called into.
    The FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT THERE ARE QUESTIONS BY PPL THAT DID NOT VOTE FOR OBAMA (MANY HILLARY SUPPORTERS) THAT HAVE THE RIGHT DUE TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT TO KNOW TO THEIR SATISFACTION THAT HE WAS ELIGIBLE TO BE POTUS …If he was not then the election was stolen from Hillary. Even if the majority of the people voted for Arnold Swartzeneggar unless the Constitution is changed he cannot rightfully sit in the office of POTUS.
    He was a Constitutional lawyer. He knows that his presentation of so called proof is spurious. His college records, passport, as well as HIS LONG FORM BIRTH CERTIFICATE HAS NOT BEEN OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC TO FOR REASONABLE SATISFACTION.

  39. JoZeppy says:

    Why do birthers keep repeating the same discredited lies, over, and over again. You could look around this site, and see the vast majority of the garbage you spewed has been full discredited…but since I can’t sleep, I’ll repeat some of it for you.

    1) the supposed comment during an Obama/Keyes debate NEVER HAPPENED. If it did, why don’t you link to a clip on youtube? Any debate between the two would have been televised, and we all could see it over and over again…but since it only happened in the fertile minds of birfers, there is no record.

    2) COLB is prima facie evidence of Obama’s birth in Hawaii…just like it says right on the document. That’s all you need. It says born in Hawaii, just like the records in file with the state. The rest of what you babble is mindless birfer speak, that has no basis in reality.

    3) The Freedom of Information Act is irrelevant here, because it only applies to the documents of government agencies, and even in those cases, if the document generated regard a specific, living individual, they cannot be produced. You do not have a right to any of the information, nor does the law entitle you to evidence to your satisfaction. You’re entitled to an extra large serving of nothing.

    4) The only evidence that has come forward that is not spurrious is the COLB that Obama offered for examiniation. And the matter is, the burden is on you nutty birfers to prove Obama is not born here, not the other way around. You’re the one’s trying (rather poorly I might add) to challenge him in court. The Plaintiff carries with him the burden of proof. What have you offered? A litany of bad forgeries, and a crazy Moldovan.

    5) You birfers and that “he spent millions” stuff. There is no evidence he’s spent a penny on this garbage. Someone pulled a figure off his FEC disclosure to show his campaign spent a million on attorneys at the end of his campaign. Guess what, so did McCain…and John Kerry, and GW Bush, and Al Gore. Every candidate has since Bush v. Gore. Just the way our elections work now. And the kicker is, that was while he was running, before the vast majority of the garbage started…and since then, the DOJ has been handling these cases, so Obama hasn’t has to spend dime one on any of these quickly killed cases.

    6) and finally, besides the fact that he has no reason to answer to quacks and nut jobs, he doesn’t release the “long form” BC because Hawaii no longer issues them. Can’t release what you can’t get.

  40. G says:

    *yawn* another ranting screed compiling and regurgitating long debunked birther myths, lies and complete misunderstandings of how things work in reality.

    I love how these nutbags have to always show that they are loonies frothing at the mouth by USING CAPS FOR ENTIRE RUN ON SENTENCES OR PARAGRAPHS…as if blatently conveying that they are shouting like madmen somehow helps their point… I just don’t get it.

    Yes, you’ve proven that you are a stark-raving, hyperbolic hysteria-driven frothing mad loony. Good for you!

    JoeZeppy has already done a commendable job of breaking down and addressing why you are wrong on just about every bit of crap you spewed forth here, so nothing more really needs to be said on that.

  41. misha says:

    “I suppose Alan Keyes, a black man, is also racist??”

    Keyes is a psycho-ceramic. He lost the senate race because he is a nut, and he is still licking his wounds. Whatever he says, discount by 100%, and you’ll be fine.

  42. G says:

    Hmmmm…. somehow I’m not buying your story at all. I think your full of BS and just trying to concern troll here.

    Go away you loony birther. Why don’t you go find a street corner and join the rest of your fellow nuts that bark at mailboxes and carry crappy misspelled signs warning about “The End Is Near”. You can all rave your mad ramblings at the wind until your hearts content and leave dealing with the real world to the rest of us sane folks.

  43. aarrgghh says:

    parker drools, mounting the high horse:

    “I suppose Alan Keyes, a black man, is also racist?? … yada yada yada … AND DOCTOR’S SIGNATURE.????”

    it’s olympics season, so how’d our boy do?

    debunked talking points 9.5
    lack of supporting evidence 10.0
    lack of supporting legal cites 10.0
    lack of paragraph breaks 7.5
    all caps 4.0
    who me, racist? 8.5
    sour grapes 9.5
    puma 10.0

    total birfer points overall: 8.625

    i think parker tried to fit too much into his program but i think he stuck the dismount. the sour grapes was a nice touch. barker could go home with a bronze if he keeps this up.

  44. Whatever4 says:

    You’d think that if Obama really made that comment to Alan Keyes, then Keyes would have used it in his case against Obama (Keyes v. Obama, in CA District Court). Keyes never mentioned it.

    I did listen to the tape of the debate, though. There’s a quote that comes close enough to be the source of the rumor.

    OBAMA: I don’t need Mr. Keyes lecturing me about Christianity. That’s why I have a pastor. That’s why I have my Bible. That’s why I have my own prayer. And I don’t think that any of you are particularly interested in having Mr. Keyes lecture you about your faith.

    What you’re interested in is solving problems like jobs, and health care, and education. I’m not running to be the minister of Illinois. I’m running to be its United States Senator.

  45. G says:

    ROTFL! Good one!

    aarrgghh, you’ve done it again. Another brilliant and poignant analysis! Keep up the good work.

  46. misha says:

    Because IF IT IS IN ALL CAPS, it shows that Obama supporters WILL LISTEN TO THEIR REASON!!!

    Because otherwise, WE ARE OBTUSE, and won’t listen to THEIR PROOF!!! And they are trying to impress us WITH THEIR PASSION!!!

    GOT IT???

  47. misha says:

    “I’m running to be its United States Senator.”

    I thought he was running to be Galatic Federation commander.

  48. aarrgghh says:

    you can thank little parker for this special olympics moment. he deserves all the credit.

  49. G says:

    LOL! I hear ya, misha, loud and clear. 😉

    Yeah, it cracks me up that they actually believe that if they turn the volume up to 11 on their lies that somehow they will magically become true.

    Or even that they seriously believe that shouting in a frothty-frenzy somehow helps make them look credible or sane.

    Ever time I see this stuff, I just picture this scene in my head:

    Some birther marching down a street corner, wearing nothing but Wonder Woman underoos and a sandwich board that says “Down with the Long-Legged Mack Daddy Usurper” on one side and “the Reptilians will abduct you and put fluoride in your water in preparation for the Rapture” on the other. Said birther is doing their best Napoleon march, carrying a band-leader’s baton and with frothy spittle flying furiously, shouting at the top of their lungs, “I AM NOT A LOONY! I AM NOT A LOOOONY!!! I AM NOT A LOOOOONY!!!!!!”

    LMAO! 😉

  50. Mike says:

    I find the simplest solution to an problem includes transparency, everyone has a historic trail of documentation. Simply make it available and the issue is dead. Refuse and you become very suspect.

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  51. Gordon says:

    LOL, When it morphed into his seeing a Hawaiian form from 1961 it didn’t pass the smell test for me either.

  52. Looking at the Nordyke certificates from Hawaii in 1961, we see that the form doesn’t have checkboxes. While we don’t have a worksheet from 1961, the race of parents has been “self reported” for decades, and I’d be willing to bet that it is most likely a checklist with an Other (specify) ___________ box. That’s certainly how it is today. We have other examples of Hawaiian birth certificates where the parent’s race is “Japanese” — so much for your common sense (i.e. uninformed) opinion.

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