Jomo Kenyatta

Jomo Kenyatta was born in 1894, in what was previously known as British East Africa. What we know today as Kenya was previously known as British East Africa. Jomo’s original name was Kamau. When Jomo was very young, his father, Moigoi, died. His father was a agricultural village chief. After his father died, his Uncle married his mother, Wamboi. His Uncle adopted him and Jomo changed his name to Kamau wa Ngengi. Jomo’s mother died during the birth of his brother, and shortly after Jomo left to go live with his grandfather, who was a medicine man. While with his grandfather, at around the age of 10, he became very sick and was taken to the Church of Scotland Mission in Thogoto to be healed. Impressed by the mission, he later ran away determined to join and study there. To pay for his school fees he worked for wealthier white families as a houseboy and cook. After joining the mission, he again changed his name. His new name was changed to John Peter Kamau then Johnstone Kamau in 1914. His final name change to Jomo Kenyatta was in 1922 changed. His last name might have come from the traditional belt he wore, which was called a Kenyatta. Kenyatta also means the light of Kenya, in Swahili. 

After completing schooling at the mission in around 1912, Jomo became an apprentice carpenter. Around the time of his carpentry job is when he started wearing the Kenyatta belt. In 1920 Jomo met and married Grace Wahu. Together they had two kids. In 1922, Jomo got a job as interpreter in the Nairobi High Court and also ran a store. One of his other jobs was working for the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA). While there he was a editor (1924-1929) and later secretary (1928). He also started a paper called Mwigwithania in 1928. Between 1929 and 1946 Jomo was sent to to work for the KCA overseas. Jomo became the president of the Kenya African Union (KAU) in 1947. In October, 1952, he was convicted and in April 1953, he was arrested and was in jail until 1961. There was national and international protest about his arrest and imprisonment. The charges against him were for organization of the Mau Mau. Jomo became the first Prime Minister in 1963 until 1964 when he became the first president of Kenya from 1964 to 1978. Jomo Kenyatta died on August 22, 1978. After his death, Kenyans honored him with a national holiday called Kenyatta Day. This day was later changed to be called Mashujaa Day to honor all people who made a difference in Kenya’s battle for independence. Another name for the holiday is Hero’s day. One of Jomo Kenyatta’s slogans was “Harambee,” meaning all pull together. There is a monument of him in City Square, Nairobi.



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