He was born Kamau wa Ngengi in Gatundu, Kiambu, in the late 1880s or early 1890s. Kenyatta received preliminary and elementary secondary education at the Scottish Mission Centre at Thogoto, Kikuyu.
He was baptised and acquired the name John Peter, which he changed to Johnstone. He became Jomo in 1938. He lived among Maasai relatives in Narok during World War 1 and worked as a clerk to an Asian trader. He began wearing his beaded belt kinyatta then. He married Grace Wahu in 1920 and worked for Nairobi City Council’s Water Department between 1921 and 1926 for a salary of Sh 250.
Though he owned a farm and a house at Dagoretti, he lived in Kilimani and Cycled home on Weekends. By 1925, he was one of the leaders of the Kikuyu Central Association(KCA), which chose him to represent Gikuyu land problems before the Hilton Young Commission in Nairobi.
In 1928, he edited a newspaper. Muigwithania (reconciler) that dealt with Agikuyu culture and new farming methods. KCA sent him to England in 1929 to influence British opinion on land. He returned to Kenya in 1930.
In 1931, he again went to England to present a petition to the House of Commons. After giving evidence before the Morris Cater Commission in 1932, he visited Moscow. During the gold rush in Kakamega in the early 1930s, land was distributed to settlers. Kenyatta spoke against it, but the British labelled him a communist.
He studied Anthropology at the London School of Economics and in 1938, his book ‘Facing Mount Kenya’ on Gikuyu culture, was published.
He married Edna Clarke, the mother of his son, Peter Magana, in 1942. Along with other African leaders, including Nkurumah of Ghana, he took part in the Fifth Pan-African Congress of 1945 in Manchester. When he returned to Kenya in 1946, he married Wanjiku, Senior Chief Koinange’s Daughter, who died as she gave Birth.
His youngest wife is Ngina, the mother of Uhuru Kenyatta. In 1947, he took over the leadership of KAU from James Gichuru.
On October 20, 1952, a state of emergency was declared. Jomo Kenyatta and other prominent leaders were arrested. Their trial at Kapenguria in 1953 for managing Mau Mau was a mockery of justice. They were jailed for seven years. He was taken to Lokitaung until 1959, but was restricted at Lodwar and later, Maralal until 1961. On August 14, 1961, he returned to his Gatundu home.
On August 21, 1961, nine years after his arrest, he was freed from all restrictions. On October 28,1961, Kenyatta became the president of KANU and a month later led a delegation to Lancaster, London, for independence constitutional talks. On June, 1, 1963, he became the Prime Minister of self-governing Kenya and at midnight on December 12, 1963, at Uhuru stadium, a new nation was born.
A year later, Kenya became a republic with Kenyatta as president. Under him, Kenya enjoyed political stability and agricultural, industrial and educational advances. He died on August 22, 1978 in Mombasa. He was in his 80s.