The Obama Letters

A series of nine handwritten letters by former President Barack Obama to Alexandra McNear -- his college girlfriend who was at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where the president transferred from -- have been made public for the first time. They were obtained by Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library in Atlanta. The notes were written from the fall of 1982 to the spring of 1984. The director of the library declined to reveal who had the letters before the library obtained them, other than to say that library officials were contacted by “someone in the rare book world” who acted as a middleman. In a letter dated April 1, 1983, Obama wrote, “I feel sunk in that long corridor between old values, actions, modes of thought, and those that I seek, that I’m working towards.” The letters are written in cursive and feature the occasional cross-out, and the correspondence is often more cerebral in tone, rather than romantic. In a letter from June 27, 1983, that Mr. Obama wrote from Indonesia, he said that while he thought of Ms. McNear often, he was confused about his feelings. “It seems we will ever want what we cannot have,” Obama wrote. “That’s what binds us. That’s what keeps us apart.” In that same letter, Obama mused on being an outsider in Indonesia, where he was visiting his mother and sister. “I’m treated with a mixture of puzzlement, deference and scorn because I’m American, my money and my plane ticket back to the U.S. overriding my blackness.” This was long before self-discovery and young love blossomed over text messages, emoticons, and IG pics. More here.

Tiffany D. Cross