As our 44th President, and the nation’s first African American President, leaves office, The Kansas African American Museum (TKAAM) presents an exhibition that reflects on the influence of his deep Kansas roots and on the Midwestern values of his mother and grandparents, who raised him.
The oil industry brought two of his great grandfathers, Rolla Charles Payne and Harry Ellington Armour, to Kansas. One settled in Augusta, the other in El Dorado. Obama’s grandfather, Stanley or “Gramps,” was born in Wichita, as was his mother, Stanley Ann.
This Kansas setting for his story is as unlikely as it is perfect. It’s a story of a literally African and American child being raised by white parents from a nearly homogenous Kansas. The Sunflower state proudly entered the union as a “Free State,” but has long wrestled with a complicated racial history that included riots, lynching, and segregation. Those complexities, hate and hope, emerged in his presidency.