Books by Barack Obama’s Father Went Up for Auction

Original copies of books written by Barack Obama Sr., center, the father of Barack Obama, have surfaced more than half a century after they were written. They are up for auction until Monday. (Credit: Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

In the late 1950s, a young Kenyan man named Barack Hussein Obama wrote a series of books in his native language, Luo, for a program to promote adult literacy in Africa. The coordinator of that program, Elizabeth Mooney, singled him out as particularly talented, and helped him apply to an international study program at the University of Hawaii. There he met and married a student of cultural anthropology, Ann Dunham. Their only child would become an American president, sharing his father’s name.

Original copies of the little books that started it all have been discovered in the hands of a private citizen in the Netherlands, and were up for auction until Monday through a Dutch online auction house, with an estimated price of 2,500 to 3,500 euros, or about $2,800 to $4,000. The auctioneer, Adams Amsterdam Auctions, says that they are the only known set in private hands.

Before the discovery of this set of the books, there were only two known copies: one held by the Library of Congress and another owned by Northwestern University, according to Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress in Washington.

“That little book had such an impact,” Ms. Deeb said. “It changes the course of history. When you think about how sheer accident can change so much, it’s breathtaking.”

The series of Luo language learners, published by the East African Literature Bureau, included three books in all, according to “The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father” by Sally H. Jacobs, but only two from each set survive. The series uses the character Otieno, the Wise Man to offer advice on farming, healthy eating habits and other topics.

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SOURCE: The New York Times – Nina Siegel