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Jomo Kenyatta: Early Days to His Political Awakening

Jomo Kenyatta was the first President of Kenya and a prominent leader for independence. Born into a dominant Kikuyu culture, Kenyatta became the most famous interpreter of Kikuyu traditions through his book Facing Mount Kenya. His younger years shaped him for the political life he would come to lead and holds important background for the changes of his country.

Kenyattas Early Life

Jomo Kenyatta was born Kamau in the early 1890s, though he maintained throughout his life that he did not remember the year of his birth.

Many sources now cite October 20, 1891, as the correct date.

Kamaus parents were Moigoi and Wamboi. His father was the chief of a small agricultural village in Gatundu Division of the Kiambu District, one of five administrative districts in the Central Highlands of British East Africa.

Moigoi died when Kamau was very young and he was, as custom dictated, adopted by his uncle Ngengi to become Kamau wa Ngengi. Ngengi also took over the chiefdom and Moigois wife Wamboi.

When his mother died giving birth to a boy, James Moigoi, Kamau moved to live with his grandfather. Kungu Mangana was a noted medicine man (in Facing Mount Kenya, he refers to him as a seer and a magician) in the area.

Around the age of 10, suffering form a jigger infection, Kamau was taken to the Church of Scotland mission at Thogoto (about 12 miles north of Nairobi). He underwent a successful surgery on both feet and one leg.

Kamau was impressed by his first exposure to Europeans and became determined to join the mission school. He ran away from home to become a resident pupil at the mission. There he studied many subjects, including the Bible, English, mathematics, and carpentry. He paid the school fees by working as a houseboy and cook for a nearby white settler.

In 1912, having completed his mission school education, Kamau became an apprentice carpenter. The following year he underwent initiation ceremonies (including circumcision) and became a member of the kehiomwere age group.

In August of 1914, Kamau was baptized at

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