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)
▢ Black or African American
▢ American Indian or Alaska Native (Name of the enrolled or principal tribe)________________
▢ Asian Indian
▢ Other Asian (Specify)______________________________
▢ Native Hawaiian
▢ Guamanian or Chamorro
▢ 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.
- 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.
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: