Before he was born, did Barack Obama's parents consider giving up their child-to-be for adoption?
Obviously, it never happened but if it had, the political history of early 21st-century America would surely have been very different.
The question is raised by a biography of the Kenyan father of the 44th President, to be published next week, entitled The Other Barack: the Bold and Reckless life of President Obama's Father, by Sally Jacobs, a journalist on The Boston Globe newspaper.
The crucial passage is in a 1961 memo by an official at the office of the US immigration Service in Honolulu where Barack Senior and Ann Dunham, the President's mother had met when both were students at the University of Hawaii. "Subject got his USC wife 'Hapai' [Hawaiian for pregnant] and although they were married they do not live together and Ms Dunham is making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away," said the memo which details an interview with Mr Obama as he applied for an extension to his visa, something he had to do each year.
The official was clearly very wary. The elder Obama, it had been noted by the authorities already, had been "running around with several girls", and it was believed – correctly – that he already had a wife back home in Kenya, along with two children. The INS considered seeking his deportation on the grounds of polygamy, but ultimately decided just to keep an eye on him. But the episode raises more questions than it answers.
President Obama, in his memoir Dreams from My Father, notes hypothetically that it would have made sense for his parents to at least have considered adoption, given the challenge of raising a mixed-race child born then, before the 1960s civil rights legislation.
But, according to Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama's long-time former spokesman, his boss was "absolutely convinced" that his mother never raised the matter with the Salvation Army. Nor is there any mention of it in A Singular Woman, Janny Scott's recent biography of the strong-willed and unconventional Ms Dunham who died of cancer in 1995, aged 52. The most likely explanation is that Barack Senior mentioned adoption in the interview on the assumption it might remove one obstacle to an extension of his visa. President Obama's parents were divorced in 1964. His father was killed in a car accident in Nairobi in 1982.Reuse content