The elder Barack H. Obama, a sophomore at the University of Hawaii, had come under scrutiny by federal immigration officials who were concerned that he had more than one wife. When he was questioned by the school's foreign student adviser, the 24-year-old Obama insisted that he had divorced his wife in his native Kenya. Although his new wife, Ann Dunham, was five months pregnant with their child - who would be called Barack Obama II - Obama declared that they intended to put their child up for adoption.
"Subject got his USC wife 'Hapai' [Hawaiian for pregnant] and although they were married they do not live together and Miss Dunham is making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away,'' according to a memo describing the conversation with Obama written by Lyle H. Dahling, an administrator in the Honolulu office of what was then called the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"She was wildly in love with Barack Obama, her husband, and very excited about her future with him,'' recalled Blake. "From my perspective, she had no equivocation about her baby in the slightest. She was thrilled with him.''
Barack Obama Sr., on the other hand, would have had reason to worry that having a child in the United States could have significant consequences. For starters, Obama, who had two children in Kenya, was having severe financial problems. Although he told Duham that he had gotten divorced from his Kenyan wife, he apparently did not tell her about his other children.
Obama was a member of the Luo ethnic group, the third largest of Kenya's tribes, among whose members polygamy was common. His own father had at least four wives. In fact, Obama was still married to his Kenyan wife, Grace Kezia Obama, and apparently worried about the financial burden of another child. Of greater concern was his immigration status. At the time that he made his statement about adoption in spring 1961, Obama was in the midst of applying to the INS for an extension of his stay in the United States. Although it was a routine process that was required of foreign students periodically, the application entailed an examination of the student's academic record and general behavior.
The elder Obama wound up leaving the family when his son was 2 years old, moving to Massachusetts to pursue a doctorate in economics--and meet his third wife--at Harvard University.
(image via http://www.boston.com/)