: Rebellions against the Dutch colonial regime in the region then known as the Dutch East Indies began. The Dutch responded by exerting even tighter controls, and clamping down on resistance efforts. Profits from the Indonesian production of coffee, rubber, tobaco and oil became central to the Duch economy.

: At the beginning of the decade, the railway from Mombasa to Kisumu was completed. European and Indian settlers came to live in East Africa causing a rise in racial tensions and radical changes to the African Kenyans way of life. Local rebellions were crushed by the British.

America 1910

United States
: The U.S. began its transformation from a primarily rural to a primarily industrial society. The rapid growth in the U.S. economy gave rise to the popular image of the U.S. as a place of hope and prosperity. From 1900-1915, more than 13 million immigrants arrived in the U.S.

World War I began in Europe in 1914. Part way through the war, the Russian Revolution of 1917 brought about the end of czarist Russia, and the beginning of the Soviet Union. Known as one of the most devastating wars of all time, peace was finally declared in 1918. The U.S. emerged from the war a major economic and world power.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909, in part a response to the 1908 lynching of African-American people and subsequent race riots in Springfield, Illinois. The Chicago Defender, a newspaper founded by African-Americans in 1905, had become the nation's largest weekly newspaper with a mostly black readership. In the latter part of the decade, and in the early 1920s, the Defender ran advertisements and articles that encouraged blacks living in the southern U.S. to move north to find better jobs and greater opportunity.

Obama's Kenyan grandmother, Akuma, and his father, Barack Obama, Sr.

Kansas Map
Kansas Map

Obama's American grandfather, Stanley Dunham, and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham

Toot, Obama's grandmother holding his mother, Stanley Ann

Obama's grandparents were born in the early decades of the 20th century. They came of age, married, and had children in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.


Obama's father was born in 1936; his mother was born in 1942 during the Second World War. The lives, choices and decisions of Obama's grandparents and parents were informed by the material conditions and the historical and cultural events that surrounded them in their native countries and in the world at large.

Obama alludes to these times, conditions, and events in the "Origins" and "Kenya" sections of Dreams from My Father. The timeline at left is intended to give you a very general and selective idea of the history of these times; please see the Resources page for more detailed information.

Kundu bay
Kendu Bay and Alego




: The desire for independence from the Dutch colonial power grew, leading to the development of a variety of socialist, communist and Islamic nationalist political parties.

: Native Kenyans, many of whom were educated by missionaries and abroad, protested against British policies. In 1923, the first tea plantation was founded; only the European settlers were allowed to make profits from exporting tea and coffee.

United States
: In 1920, women were finally granted the right to vote, the culmination of a civil rights struggle that began in 1848. The early years of the decade, known as the Jazz Age, were characterized by a booming economy, and continuing industrialization, but in 1929, the stock market crashed, resulting in massive unemployment, and severe economic problems.

A. Phillip Randolph formed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first successful African-American trade union. African-American artists, writers, dancers and musicians created works of art in the 1920s and 1930s, a period that came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance.




Indonesia: The independence movement continued to grow; the Dutch struggled to maintain control of their colony.

: Labor unions were formed; workers went on strike. Political movements in support of independence for Kenya gained strength.

United States:
The economic crisis known as the "Great Depression" started to improve, due in part to the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the New Deal policies of his administration. World War II began in 1939 after the Germans invaded Poland and declared war on Great Britain and France.

In Detroit, W. D. Fard founded the Nation of Islam, a religious movement based on African-American separatism. African-American Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Germany, thoroughly undermining Hitler and the Nazi philosophy of Aryan supremacy.




: In 1942, Japan, already at war with the United States, invaded the Dutch East Indies. Helped by the Japanese, in 1945, Sukarno, a nationalist leader returned from exile, and declared Indonesia independent. Seeking to maintain the colony, the Netherlands fought against Indonesian troops. In December 1949, the Dutch were forced by international pressure to recognize Indonesian independence.

Kenya:The Kenyan African Union (KAU) was formed in 1944. Jomo Kenyatta assumed leadership of KAU in 1947.

United States
: The U.S. entered the war In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The war in Europe ended in April, 1945. The U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August, 1945, ending the war in Asia.

African-Americans served in the armed forces throughout the war, fighting in segregated units. They returned to the U.S. to find Jim Crow laws still in effect, and a civil rights movement on the rise. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was formed. In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American baseball player in the major leagues. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued an Executive Order to integrate the U.S. military.




Indonesia: The province of Maluku (Moluccas) declared independence from Indonesia.

: The Mau Mau rebellion broke out in 1952; a state of emergency was declared. The British banned political parties and sent Kenyatta to prison.

United States: The 1950s were boom years in the U.S. Times were good, and the population grew very quickly. But, these were also years of great political strife and social activism. The Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, a period characterized by military struggles and proxy wars, dominated foreign and domestic affairs. Convinced that Communist ideology was penetrating American society, Joseph McCarthy, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, initiated a series of investigations into the private lives of U.S. citizens, subverting the fundamental right to freedom of thought and speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

The civil rights movement, initiated many years before, took on an ever greater role in American society. In 1954, a landmark Supreme Court Case, Brown v the Board of Education, ended segregation in the public schools, forming the basis for the end to segregation throughout the U.S.
In 1955, Emmett Till was murdered; Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus. In 1957, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to ensure integration of public schools.




: Sukarno visited the United States and met with President Kennedy. Sukarno told Kennedy that if the United States supported him, he would oppose communism. In 1965, after a failed attempt to overthow Sukarno, the Indonesian army took power. General Suharto, the head of the army, sought the support of the United States, promising to ban communist political parties.

Kenya: House arrest ended for Kenyatta, and he became leader of the Kenyan African National Party (KANU). In 1964, Kenyatta became President of an independent Kenya.

United States: The 1960s were a time of great social upheaval, particularly with regard to civil rights. Key events are mentioned below, but please see the Resources section for more details.

In 1961, the year Obama was born, the freedom riders began taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibited segregation in interstate travel facilities. John F. Kennedy was inaugurated the 35th President of the US. The Vietnam War officially began. Hawaii became the 50th state.

Dr. Martin Luther King was arrested and sent to prison during the anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Alabama in April, 1963. On August 28,1963, over 200,000 people rallied in Washington where Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. On February 21, 1964, Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, was assassinated. President John F. Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963.

President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. In August, 1965, race riots broke out in Watts, a black section of Los Angeles, California. In October, 1966, the Black Panther party was founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

Filipino-American farm workers went on strike against the grape growers of California in 1965. In support, the newly formed United Farm Workers encouraged a boycott against table grapes. The boycott and strike lasted five years, attracting attention to the conditions under which migrant and other farm laborers worked.

Chapter One, pages 3-27

Obama's parents, students at the University of Hawaii, met and married.

Barack Hussein Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961. In 1963, when Obama was two years old, his parents separated and then divorced.

Obama’s father went to Harvard to pursue Ph.D. studies and then returned to Kenya. Obama lived with his mother and grandparents in Hawaii from the time of his birth until he was six years old.




Indonesia: In 1967, the Assembly took all power away from Sukarno and declared Suharto the acting president.

Kenya: Conflicts among and between tribal groups increased. Tom Mboya from the Luo tribe sought to become President, but he was assassinated by a member of the Kikuyu tribe.

United States
: In the 1967 civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court declared miscegenation to be unconstitutional. Riots broke out in Detroit, Newark, Trenton, Los Angeles and other American cities in the summer of 1967.

1968 was an eventful year all over the world. President Johnson called for peace negotiations to work towards ending the war in Vietnam, and announced that he would not run for re-election. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis; on June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate in the 1968 presidential campaign, was assassinated. At the Summer Olympics, African-American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos had won gold and bronze medals, normally considered a great honor. They shocked the country and much of the world when they lowered their heads and raised their fists to protest against American racism.

Students and workers throughout the world gathered to protest against injustice, and against the war in Vietnam. For a brief period, known as the Prague Spring, the Czechoslovakian nation attempted to institute reforms that would allow for greater personal and political freedom. The movement was defeated when Soviet troops entered Prague. In November, 1968, Richard M. Nixon was elected president.

In 1969, NASA's Apollo 11 landed on the moon; Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, taking "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

President Nixon declared that U.S. troops would be sent into Cambodia in 1970. Four students who were protesting against the war in Vietnam and the news of the extension of the war into Cambodia, were killed at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. Two Jackson State College students were killed by police at a protest in Mississippi. The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22.

Chapter Two, pages 28-52

Obama's mother married Lolo Soetoro, a student from Indonesia. In 1967, when he was six years old, Obama and his mother moved to Jakarta to live with Lolo. Obama´s half-sister Maya Soetoro–Ng was born in 1970.




Indonesia: East Timor declared its independence from Portugal. Independence was short-lived, however, as Indonesia occupied the region later in 1975.

Kenya: Kenyatta was re-elected president in 1974.

United States
: In 1971, the age at which American citizens are allowed to vote was lowered to 18. The radical group known as the Weather Underground bombed the U.S. Capitol building causing $300,000 in damage.

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was signed in 1972. President Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit Communist China, opening diplomatic and economic doors. On June, 17, 1972, in Washington D.C., five men were arrested and charged with breaking into the Democratic Party's national headquarters. This was the beginning of the Watergate scandal which would end with the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

In January, 1973, the U.S. and South and North Vietnam signed a peace treaty, ending the war in Vietnam, although all U.S. military were not evacuated until 1975 when South Vietnam surrendered to the North. In February, 1973, protesting a murder case and racism, members of the American Indian Movement confronted white authorities by taking over the village of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. After 71 days, the protesters signed a "peace pact."

Chapter Three, pages 53-71

When Obama was ten, he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham. His mother and half-sister remained in Indonesia until 1972 when they rejoined Obama in Hawaii.




Indonesia: East Timor became the 27th province of Indonesia.

: Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, tried to exert a territorial claim on a big part of Kenya. In 1977, the Kenyan government prohibited hunting for big game. Kenyatta died in 1978, and was succeeded by Vice-President Daniel Arap Moi who closed universities, and banned tribal societies.

United States
: In 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected president. He granted a pardon to most of those who had resisted the draft during the Vietnam war. Paul Allen and Bill Gates formed the Microsoft Corporation; Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne created the Apple Inc.The Supreme Court confirmed that federal courts have the right to order school desegregation plans.

In 1978, Carter met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to discuss plans for peace in the Middle East; these talks resulted in the signing of the Camp David accords on September 17, 1978. In November, 1979, Iranian miltants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 63 U.S. citizens hostage.

Chapter Four, pages 72 - 91

Obama enrolled at the Punahou Academy when he was in fifth grade. He graduated from the Punahou Academy high school with honors in 1979.



Indonesia: In 1980, Suharto denied the charges of corruption and immorality that had been brought against him. Xanana Gusmao, East Timor’s current prime minister and former president, became the leader of Fretilin, the Revolutionary Front for East Timor.

Kenya: The country suffered from severe droughts.

United States
: In 1980, a military effort to rescue the U.S. hostages in Tehran failed; the U.S. cut all diplomatic relations with Iran. Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election. In 1981, the U. S. Center for Disease Control reported the first incidences of a medical condition that would become known as HIV/AIDS.

Chapter Five, pages 92 - 112

Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years.
New York



Indonesia: Suharto was elected by Assembly (MPR) to fourth term as President. Falling oil prices contributed to the devaluation of the Indonesian currency, the rupiah.

Kenya: In June, 1982, the Republic of Kenya became a one party state ruled by KANU. In August, the air force engaged in a coup which was ultimately unsuccessful.

United States
: First proposed in 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution designed to ensure equal rights for women, again failed to pass in 1982. The U.S. Center for Disease Control declared AIDS an epidemic.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed in 1983, killing 241 American servicemen. This bombing is understood as the first blow against the U.S. struck by political groups now often referred to as representing "violent Islamic fundamentalism."

In 1984, Congress declared that the third Monday in January would be a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Still struggling as a result of the fiscal crisis of the late 1970s, New York City was not in good shape. The crime rate was high; use of crack/cocaine was on the rise. Racial tensions were exacerbated by the murder of Willie Turks in Brooklyn and the police shooting of Eleanor Bumpers in the Bronx. Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, was elected in 1983.

Throughout the early 1980s, the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS increased dramatically; in 1982, the Gay Mens's Health Crisis (GMHC) organization set up the world's first hot-line to support people suffering from HIV/AIDS.

Chapter Six, pages 113-129

Obama transferred to Columbia University in New York; he graduated from Columbia in 1983 with a degree in political science. His father died in a car accident in 1982.

Chapter Seven, pages 133-143

While still in New York, Obama decided he wanted to be a community organizer.



Indonesia:U.S. President Reagan visited Indonesia. Relations between Indonesia and Australia deteriorated.

Kenya: Opposition political parties were suppressed; international criticism of Kenya mounted due to political arrests and abuses of human rights.

United States: In 1985, President Reagan authorized secret arms shipments to Iran. This was the beginning of the Iran-Contra scandal in which funds paid for U.S. arms were used to support right-wing political groups in Nicaragua that were seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government.

In 1986, joining a world-wide movement in the struggle against apartheid policies, Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against South Africa, overriding a presidential veto.

In 1987, President Reagan made his famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech in Berlin, advocating for the destruction of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War. 600,000 people marched in Washington in support of gay and lesbian civil rights.

Chapters Nine through Fourteen,
pages 144 - 295

Obama moved to Chicago in 1985 to work as a community organizer. He entered Harvard Law School in September, 1988.


Indonesia: Suharto was elected by the Assembly (MPR) to a fifth term as President.

Kenya: International criticism of Kenya continued to mount due to ongoing human rights abuses and suppression of political parties.

United States: President Reagan agreed to "a substantive dialogue" with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). George Bush was elected President. Congress overturned a presidential veto to pass the bill which declared that federally funded agencies had to obey civil rights laws in all activities, not just in the program or activity that had received the funding. In December, a bomb exploded in an airplane on its way to the U.S. over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people. In 2003, Libya took responsibility for the bombing.

Chapters Fifteen through Ninteen,
pages 299 - 437

Before beginning his studies at Harvard Law School, in 1988, Obama went to Kenya to visit his father's family.




Indonesia: Indonesia and China restored diplomatic ties.

Kenya: In 1989, political prisoners were freed. The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) was created by six leaders from opposition parties; the party was soon outlawed. In 1995, Safina, a new opposition party was formed, but was not officially recognized until 1997.

United States
: The Berlin Wall, symbol of the Cold War, was dismantled in 1989. In 1990, after 27 years in South African prisons, Nelson Mandela was released. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, designed to prevent discrimination against the disabled, was signed into law. In August, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait; the U.N.condemned the occupation. The first Gulf War began on January 16, 1991 led by U.S. aircraft in "Operation Desert Storm." The war ended on February 27. In 1991, the Soviet Union crumbled.

Bill Clinton won the 1992 presidential election. In 1993, President Clinton proposed a health care plan, ultimately withdrawn, which would have ensured health insurance for all Americans. In 1994, Clinton lifted the Vietnam trade embargo. Apartheid ended in South Africa; Mandela and the African National Congress won the first democratic elections in 1994.

The U.S. led the U.N. initiative to end the civil war in Bosnia in 1995. On April 19, 1995, a bomb set by Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist protesting against the federal government, exploded in Oklahoma, killing 169 people.

pages 439 - 442

In February 1990, Obama was elected the first African–American president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, in 1991.

On October 18, 1992, Obama married Michelle Robinson.

In 1992, Obama began to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School; in 1993, he joined the civil rights law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland.

The first edition of Dreams from My Father was published in 1994.



Indonesia: Spurred by the Asian economic crisis, Suharto fell from power. Large student protests took place across Java and continued across Indonesia. The East Timorese voted for independence in a UN sponsored referendum.

Kenya: Despite widely contested voting results, Moi was elected to another term as President. In 1998, a bomb exploded at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi; 224 people were killed and thousands were injured.

United States
: President Clinton was re-elected, defeating Senator Robert Dole in 1996. The Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Colorado law that excluded homosexuals from civil rights protections.

In 1998, a gay student named Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Wyoming, an act that was classified as a hate crime. President Clinton was impeached for lying about his relationship with a White House intern in 1998; Congress refused to convict him.

In 1999, two high school students killed 12 students and a teacher at Colombine High School in Colorado. Al Gore ran against George W. Bush for President in 2000. Irregularities in voting procedures and vote countings took 38 days to resolve. Ultimately George W. Bush was declared the winner.

Excerpt from The Audacity of Hope,
pages 445 - 457

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate.

Michelle and Barack Obama had their first child, a daugher, Malia, in 1998.
In 2000, Obama ran in the Democratic primary election for a U.S. House of Representatives seat from the state of Illinois. He was defeated by Bobby Rush.




Indonesia: In 2001, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno's daughter was elected the first woman President, and the first to be born after Indonesian independence. In 2002, a bomb went off in a Bali night club; the Jemaah Islamiah group, and it's leading cleric, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, were accused of setting the bomb. Th
e 2004 tsunami causes the death of over 200,00 people.

Kenya: Ethnic tensions mounted throughout 2001. In 2002, Mwai Kibaki from the opposition Democratic Party won the presidential election in a landslide; this election ended 40 years of KANU control and Daniel Arap Moi's presidential reign. Drought and agricultural failure caused a major food crisis in 2004.

United States
: On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked two airplanes and flew them into the the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. The towers crumbled, causing the deaths of over 3,300 people. Osama bin Laden, founder and leader of the Al Qaeda network then headquartered in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack; subsequently, hunting for bin Laden and seeking to defeat Al Qaeda, the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan.

In 2001, Enron Corporation, once the seventh largest company in the U.S. went bankrupt. Officials of the corporation were found to be responsible for causing the company's downfall.

President George Bush asked Congress to approve a resolution to send armed forces to Iraq.  The war in Iraq began in March, 2003 and continues. Bush was re-elected president in 2004.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in August and September, 2005.

A second daughter, Natasha (usually called Sasha), was born in 2001.

Obama, still an Illinois state senator, spoke out against President Bush's resolution to go to war in Iraq.

On March 16, 2004, Obama won the Democratic party nomination to run for the U.S. Senate from Illinois.

On July 27, 2004, at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Obama gave the keynote speech nominating John Kerry as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. The speech was widely recognized to be a great success, launching Obama, who was not yet a well-known politician, into the national spotlight.

On November 2, 2004, Obama won election to the U.S. Senate. From 2004 through 2008, he served as only the third African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.

The second edition of Dreams from My Father was published in 2004.



Indonesia: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won re-election. The Indonesian-East Timorese Truth Commission issues a report blaming Indonesia for violating human rights in East Timor prior to independence.

Kenya: In 2006, Kenya and China sign an agreement which will enable China to drill for oil off the Kenyan coast. Regional floods cause thousands of people to be displaced. President Kibaki is elected to a second term in 2007 despite charges of electoral fraud and corruption. In 2008, an international tribunal is recommended to investigate post-election violence.

United States: In 2006, President Bush renewed the Patriot Act, and with a signing statement, claimed that he was not required to tell Congress how the law was being used.  A report compiled by the House of Representatives blamed government officials for mishandling the aftermath of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes. Saddam Hussein was tried and executed by the Iraqi government, but the war continued. 

On February 10, 2007, on the steps of the Illinois Senate, Barack Hussein Obama formally announced that he would run for election in the 2008 presidential campaign. On November 4th, 2008, Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee John McCain. He is now the 44th president of the United States, and the first African-American to hold the position.

In October, 2006, Obama Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, was published.