In his 1995 book, Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama never discussed the identity of the mysterious “Frank” who had given him important advice on growing up black in what was described as a white racist world. We learned in 2008 that “Frank” was Frank Marshall Davis, a member of the Communist Party who was the subject of a 600-page FBI file. Still, the major media never asked Obama about this important relationship during his growing up years in Hawaii.
Now, in an extraordinary development, video of Obama explicitly and openly identifying “Frank” as Frank Marshall Davis has suddenly surfaced on the Internet. The footage is said to have been recorded on September 20, 1995, with the program originally airing on Channel 37 Cambridge Municipal Television as an episode of the show, “The Author Series.”
It’s not clear how many saw this program when it aired. For some reason, this “From the Vault” Barack Obama presentation was just recently posted on YouTube. In the video, Obama is introduced as a Harvard Law School student and President of the Harvard Law Review. He discusses “Frank” as Frank Marshall Davis at about 8:37 in the video.
In his remarks, Obama never identifies Davis as a communist or even a leftist. But the remarks do reflect the significant influence that Davis had over his young life as he was growing up in Hawaii. Obama talks about how Davis “schools” him on the subject of race relations. The term implies a teacher-student relationship the two of them had, confirming what we had reported back in 2008, that Davis had functioned as Obama’s “mentor.”
It’s important to understand what Obama is saying here. Getting ready to read directly from his book, Dreams from My Father, Obama talks about the passages ending with “me having a conversation with a close friend of my maternal grandfather, a close friend of gramps, a black man from Kansas, named Frank, actually at the time a fairly well-known poet named Frank Marshall Davis, who had moved to Hawaii and lived there, and so I have a discussion with him about the kinds of frustrations I’m having, and he sorts of schools me that I should get used to these frustrations…”
Davis was indeed a black poet. His works included attacks on Christianity. One Davis poem referred to Christ irreverently as a “nigger.” Davis was himself an atheist.
However, Davis was better known as a communist propagandist whose work for the Communist Party in Hawaii earned him surveillance by the FBI and placement on its “security index.” Davis was also a pornographer who engaged in bizarre sexual practices, even pedophilia.
Needless to say, Obama’s willingness to identify “Frank” as Davis before this audience raises questions as to why “Frank” wasn’t identified by his full name—Frank Marshall Davis—in the book itself. Obama made references to “Frank” 22 times throughout his book. Paul Kengor notes that Obama’s audio version of Dreams from My Father omitted every reference to “Frank” that was in the book. Those omissions were clearly designed to keep people from asking questions about “Frank,” since Obama was considering a run for the presidency.
Today, in 2015, discovering film of Obama identifying “Frank” as Davis is confirmation of the obvious. It doesn’t make a lot of difference politically, since Obama is serving out his second term. But it could have made a difference seven years ago, in 2008, when we identified “Frank” as Davis, during Obama’s campaign for his first term in office.
The clip of Obama talking about Davis during his 1995 Cambridge presentation is important for other reasons, however.
By his own admission, Obama was preoccupied with his own feelings and thoughts about race relations. He saw himself as an “angry young man” whose father was absent from his life. He said he was “without father figures around who might guide and steer my anger.”
That’s significant because it’s clear, from the passages he reads, that Davis became that father figure. Davis was indeed picked by his white grandfather to be a role model or father figure for the young Barack Obama.
In the passages he read back in 1995, Obama discussed inviting some white friends to a black party and seeing them squirm. “They’re trying to tap their foot to the beat and being extraordinarily friendly,” he said. They are trying to fit in but they are uncomfortable and they tell Obama they want to leave. Obama concluded, “What I have had to put up with every day of my life is something that they find so objectionable that they can’t even put up with a day.”
This is like a revelation to Obama about the world of white racism. All of this he says “triggers” something in his head and he comprehends a “new map of the world.” He gets a sense of the anger and betrayal in society and even in his own family, where he is being raised by his white grandfather, “Gramps,” and white grandmother, “Toot.” This leads him to seek advice from “Frank.” Frank Marshall Davis then “sort of schools me that I should get used to these frustrations,” Obama says.
The passages that he reads from the book before the Cambridge audience include a discussion of when his own white grandmother was accosted by a black panhandler. Davis told Obama that his grandmother was right to be scared and that “She understands that black people have reason to hate.”
In other words, Davis did not encourage Obama to pursue racial harmony or reconciliation. He told Obama that blacks have a reason, or right, to hate.
It is significant that, back in 1995, Obama decided to read these passages. They clearly reflect what he is all about.
This was also clear to us from reading the book and understanding what Davis was all about. We wrote a column back in 2012 that was titled, “Reason to Hate: Barack Obama’s Racist Roots.” Paul Kengor’s book on Davis, The Communist. Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor, examined in more detail the Davis mentality and ideology that shaped Obama.
Kengor’s book documented that Davis:
- Considered American racism a “disease” that “Red Russia” haid solved
- Wrote in a column on July 20, 1946, that the Soviet Union had, “n less than a generation,” abolished “discrimination and racism”
- Wrote that “the only people” Winston Churchill cared about were “the white people of the British empire”
- Labeled the Marshall Plan for Western Europe after World War II a form of white imperialism, designed to “help maintain European empires at the expense of exploited dark colonial peoples”
- Considered anti-communism a form of racism.
In the video, Obama says that Davis’s remarks about blacks having “a reason to hate” had a profound impact on him. “The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment,” he wrote. “I stopped, trying to steady myself, and know for the first time that I was utterly alone.”
During his talk at the Cambridge Public Library, Obama also says some nice things about white people. While he faults America for not making “a serious effort” to address racial problems, he does say that “Americans are decent people” and comments that some things have changed for the better.
But one can sense that the anger is still there.
Looking back at this presentation, and taking into account the policies of the Obama administration, there can be no doubt that Davis’s racism did have a profound impact on Obama.
As we wrote back in 2012, after examining the racist outlook of Davis, “The Obama administration’s tactics are to exploit and manipulate racial and ethnic differences for political gain. This is not an accident but a deliberate political strategy that one can find in the mind of Obama’s communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis, who ‘educated Obama during his critical growing up years. Black people, Davis told Obama, have ‘reason to hate.’ The evidence shows that Obama has incorporated that hatred in his policies and pronouncements.”
Now that Obama’s personal confirmation of the critical role that Davis played in helping to formulate his worldview on racial politics has been made public, perhaps The Washington Post will admit that those of us who warned about Davis’s influence on Obama were right. But we doubt it. The Post won’t ever admit that it missed this story.
Davis’s communism had an impact on Obama as well. Perhaps racism was the hook that got Obama into the Marxist movement. Like Davis, it looks like Obama does see Marxism as the answer to white racism. And that helps explain why the true identity of “Frank” was concealed during Obama’s run for the presidency.