Hoover Archives Unveils Correspondence Between Kenyan Independence Leader and American Philanthropist Responsible for Helping Educate Hundreds of Kenyans Including Barack Obama Sr.

Monday, January 25, 2010
Accra, Ghana, 1958
Accra, Ghana, 1958

The Hoover Institution Library and Archives recently announced the opening of the papers of William X. Scheinman (1927–1999), a longtime friend of and correspondent with Kenyan independence leader Tom Mboya. The highlight of the collection is the rich correspondence between Scheinman and Mboya, which contains hundreds of letters, beginning in 1957 and ending only with Mboya’s untimely death from an assassin’s bullet in 1969. Mboya served in the first cabinet of Kenya after it achieved independence from Great Britain in 1963.

Scheinman, an American businessman and investment adviser, first met Mboya in 1956. In subsequent meetings the two men, realizing that the future development of an independent Kenya required an educated populace, developed a program to bring Kenyan students to the United States to pursue their university studies. Founded in 1959, the African American Students Foundation, with Scheinman as its president, helped make it possible for funding the education of hundreds of Kenyan students to study in the United States; among them was President Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr.

In addition to the Mboya correspondence, the William X. Scheinman papers contain records of the African American Students Foundation, documenting fund-raising efforts, led by such personalities as Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, and Jackie Robinson, and records of the foundation’s various activities from 1959 to 1963. Also included are extensive correspondence files that record Scheinman’s long-standing interest in Africa, as seen in letters to and from African political and cultural leaders such as Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi, Zimbabwean independence leader Joshua Nkomo, longtime Zambia president Kenneth Kaunda, and Malawian independence leaders Henry Chipembere and M.W. Kanyama Chiume, as well as South African singer and human rights activist Miriam Makeba.