Hussein Onyango Obama

Hussein Onyango Obama

Death 29 Nov 1975 (aged 104–105)
Burial Kisumu, Kenya
Memorial ID 33773416 · View Source
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Grandfather of US President Barack Obama


September 9, 2007
BY SCOTT FORNEK Political Editor
He was "a prominent farmer, an elder of the tribe, a medicine man with healing powers."

And he liked to dance.

But he was such a strict disciplinarian that his grandchildren called him "the Terror."

That's how Barack Obama describes his paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, in his best-selling memoir Dreams From My Father.

" 'Wow, that guy was mean!'" Obama quotes his half-brother, Abongo (Roy) Obama, as saying. " 'He would make you sit at the table for dinner, and served the food on china, like an Englishman. If you said one wrong thing, or used the wrong fork -- pow! He would hit you with his stick. Sometimes when he hit you, you wouldn't even know why until the next day.'"

Grandfather Obama was an herbalist who knew how to use plants to heal the sick or wounded -- not " 'a shaman -- what the white man calls a witch doctor,' " Obama's step-grandmother Sarah Obama is quoted as saying.

Hussein Onyango Obama worked for the white oppressors during the period of colonial rule in Kenya, first supervising rode crews and later working in a white man's home, after a two-week walk to Nairobi.

" 'Later he would tell us the adventures he had during this journey,' " Sarah Obama is quoted as saying. " 'Many times he chased away leopards with his panga. Once he was chased into a tree by an angry buffalo and had to sleep in the tree for two days. Once he found a drum lying in the middle of the forest path and when he opened it, a snake appeared and slid between his feet into the bush.' "

Obama's grandfather also served as cook for a British officer during World War II. His father was Opiyo and mother was Nyaoke.

After hearing his step-grandmother's account, Obama writes that he was shattered, wondering whether his dead grandfather was an "Uncle Tom. Collaborator. House n-----."

His step-grandmother tells Obama that her husband respected the white man's power, technology and self improvement, but he would never tolerate abuse and had even once beaten a white employer who tried to cane him.

" 'If the white man he worked for was abusive, he would tell the man to go to hell and leave to find other work,' " she said.

He didn't smoke or drink, but he did like to dance.

" 'His only pleasure was going to the dance halls in Nairobi once a month, for he liked to dance,' " Obama's step grandmother says in the book. " 'But he also was not such a good dancer -- he was rough, and would bump into people and step on their feet.' "

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