Jomo Kenyatta

Other names: 

Kamau wa Ngengi, Johnstone Kamau, Johnstone Kenyatta

Date of birth: 
01 Jan 1895
Precise DOB unknown: 
City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
British East Africa
Current name country of birth: 
Date of death: 
22 Aug 1978
Location of death: 
Mombasa, Kenya
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
08 Mar 1929
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

8 March 1929 - September 1930; 22 May 1931 - 5 September 1946


57 Castletown Road, London W14 (Boarded with Ladipo Solanke, leader of the West African Students' Union)

23 Cambridge Street, London

95 Cambridge Street, London

Quaker Woodbrook College, Selly Oak, Birmingham

University College, London

London School of Economics, London

Storington, Sussex


Jomo Kenyatta was born in Ngenda around 1895. After moving to Nairobi, he became involved in the political and cultural life. He became general secretary of the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) in 1928. In March 1929 he travelled to Britain on behalf of the KCA with Isher Dass, an Indian lawyer living in Nairobi. He had hoped to meet the imperial authorities but only briefly met senior officials at the Colonial Office. However, he established contacts with other anti-colonial activists in London and the Communist Party like George Padmore and Shapurji Saklatvala.

Kenyatta returned to Africa in 1930 but was back in Britain in 1931. He stayed almost continuously until 1946, with the exception of a few trips to Europe. During this period he was admitted to the London School of Economics to study anthropology under Professor Malinowski. Here, he wrote a number of articles that were later published as Facing Mount Kenya (1938). During this time, he also met a small group of black activists and campaigners, including C. L. R. James, Kwame Nkrumah, Peter Abrahams, Eric Williams and Paul Robeson. He also associated with the India League and the League of Coloured Peoples and met Gandhi when he visited London in November 1931. Throughout the 1930s, Kenyatta attended India League meetings and would have come into contact with Krishna Menon. In September 1939, Makhan Singh, the General Secretary of the Labour Trade Union of East Africa, asked Kenyatta and Krishna Menon to represent his organization at a conference planned for the end of September in Brussels. However, because of the outbreak of the Second World War, the conference never took place.

Through his involvement in the Pan-African Federation, Kenyatta would possibly have met Jawaharlal Nehru. Kenyatta knew N. G. Ranga from early on. In 1945, Kenyatta attended the fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester along with Amy Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Ras Makonnen, Surat Alley, and George Padmore among others. He participated in Fabian Society conferences on post-war colonial affairs. Kenyatta returned to Kenya in September 1946 where he assumed leadership of the Kenya African Union. After the Mau Mau uprising in 1952, he was arrested in 1953 and spent the next seven years in prison. In 1962, he returned to London to negotiate the terms of a Kenyan constitution on behalf of the Kenya African National Union before being elected prime minister in June 1963. Kenya became independent in December 1963 and Kenyatta became president the next year. He ruled Kenya until his death on 22 August 1978.


Peter Abrahams, Ralph Bunche, Isher Dass (travel companion on Kenyatta's first trip to London), Fenner Brockway, N. G. Ranga, M. K. Gandhi (through the League of Coloured Peoples), C. L. R. James, Alexander Korda (extra in Korda's Sanders of the River),Kingsley Martin, Harold Moody, Kwame Nkrumah, Paul Robeson, George Padmore, Shapurji Saklatvala, Eric Williams.

Published works: 

'Kenya', in Nancy Cunard (ed.) Negro: An Anthology (London: Wishart, 1934), pp. 803-7

'Kikuyu Religion, Ancestor-Worship, and Sacrificial Practices', Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 19.3 (1937), pp. 308-28

Facing Mount Kenya: The Tribal Life of the Gikuyu (London: Secker & Warburg, 1938)

My People of Kikuyu, and the Life of Chief Wangombe (London: United Society for Christian Literature, 1942)

Kenya: The Land of Conflict (Manchester: Panaf Service, 1945)

Harambee! The Prime Minister of Kenya's Speeches, 1963-1964 ... The Text Edited and Arranged by Anthony Cullen, etc [With Portraits] (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1964)

Suffering withour Bitterness: The Founding of the Kenya Nation (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1968)

The Challenge of Uhuru: The Progress of Kenya 1968 to 1970: Selected and Prefaced Extracts from the Pubic Speeches of His Excellency Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya (Nairobi: East African Publishing House; Birmingham: Third World Publications, 1971)

Contributions to periodicals: 

'Give Back Our Land', Sunday Worker 242 (27 October 1929), p. 3

'An African People Rise in Revolt', Daily Worker 17 (20 January 1930), p. 4

'A General Strike Drowned in Blood', Daily Worker 18 (21 January 1930), p. 10

'Unrest in Kenya', Manchester Guardian (18 March 1930), p. 6

The Times (26 March 1930), p. 12

'The Gold Rush in Kenya', Labour Monthly 15 (1933), pp. 691-5

'Hands off Abyssinia!', Labour Monthly 17 (1935)

Labour Monthly

New Statesman and Nation (27 June 1936)



Barlow, A. R., Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 12.1 (1939), pp. 114-16 (Facing Mount Kenya)

Cullen, Young, Journal of the Royal African Society 37 (1938), pp. 522-3 (Facing Mount Kenya)

Secondary works: 

Adi, Hakim, and Sherwood, Marika, The 1945 Manchester Pan-African Congress Revisited (London: New Beacon Books, 1995)

Amin, Mohamed, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta: A Photobiography (Nairobi: Marketing & Publishing, 1978)

Archer, Jules, African Firebrand: Kenyatta of Kenya (New York: J. Messner, 1969)

Arnold, Guy, Kenyatta and the Politics of Kenya (London: Dent, 1974)

Assensoh, A. B., African Political Leadership: Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, and Julias K. Nyerere (Malabar, FL: Krieger Publications, 1998)

Beck, Ann, 'Some Observations on Jomo Kenyatta in Britain, 1929-1930', Cahiers d'Études Africaines 6 (1966), pp. 308-29.

Bennett, George, Kenya: A Political History: The Colonial Period (London: Oxford University Press, 1963)

Berman, Bruce, Control and Crisis in Colonial Kenya: The Dialectic of Domination (London: James Currey, 1990)

Berman, Bruce J., 'Kenyatta, Jomo (c. 1895-1978)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004) []

Berman, Bruce, and Lonsdale, John, Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa (London: Currey, 1992)

Chege, Michael, 'Africans of European Descent', Transition 73 (1997), pp. 74-86.

Cuthbert, Valerie, Jomo Kenyatta: The Burning Spear (Harlow: Longman, 1982)

Delf, George, Jomo Kenyatta: Towards Truth About 'The Light of Kenya' (London: Victor Gollancz, 1961)

Friedmann, Julian, Jomo Kenyatta (London: Wayland, 1975)

Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London: Pluto, 1984)

Good, Kenneth, 'Kenyatta and the Organization of KANU', Canadian Journal of African Studies/Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines 2.2 (1968), pp. 115-36.

Howarth, Anthony, Kenyatta: A Photographic Biography (Nairobi: East African Publishing House, 1967)

Knauss, Peter, 'From Devil to Father Figure: The Transformation of Jomo Kenyatta by Kenya Whites', Journal of Modern African Studies 9.1 (1971), pp. 131-7.

Makonnen, Ras, and King, Kenneth, Pan-Africanism from Within (Nairobi; London: Oxford University Press, 1973)

Malhotra, Veena, Kenya under Kenyatta (Delhi: Kalinga Publications, 1990)

McClellan, Woodford, 'Africans and Black Americans in the Comintern Schools, 1925-1934', International Journal of African Historical Studies 26 (1993), pp. 371-90

Murray-Brown, Jeremy, Kenyatta (London: Allen and Unwin, 1972)

Ng'weno, Hilary, The Day Kenyatta Died (Nairobi: Longman Kenya, 1978)

Pegushev, A., 'The Unknown Jomo Kenyatta', Edgerton Journal 1/2 (1996), pp. 173-98

Savage, D., 'Jomo Kenyatta, Malcolm Macdonald and the Colonial Office, 1938-9', Canadian Journal of African Studies 3 (1970), pp. 315-32

Slater, Montagu, The Trial of Jomo Kenyatta (London: Secker & Warburg, 1955)

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002)

Wepman, Dennis, Jomo Kenyatta (New York: Chelsea House, 1985)

Archive source: 

PRO CO 533/384/9, fols. 86-7, Scotland Yard report, 18 June 1929, National Archives, Kew, UK

PRO CO 533/501/11, Scotland Yard report, National Archives, Kew, UK

Documentary footage, National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

News footage in the National Film and Television Archive, British Film Institute, London

Documentary footage, Film and Video Archive, Imperial War Museum, London

News footage, Film and Video Archive, Imperial War Museum, London

Oral history interview, Sound Archive, Imperial War Museum, London