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South side story

The key to understanding Barack Obama isn't to be found in Hawaii, but in Chicago's Hyde Park

By Andrew Rosenheim   October 2008

Efforts to explain Barack Obama have usually focused on his roots—his mother’s Kansas background, the exotic Hawaiian islands of his early years, even his remote antecedents among Kenya’s goat herders. But most reporters, and even Obama himself, have said little about his home for the last 20 years—the Hyde Park neighbourhood on Chicago’s south side. I grew up in Hyde Park, and I’d argue that this quirky place is a big reason for his success. Equally, it may keep him from the presidency.

A small, tree-lined area of about one square mile, Hyde Park is home to about 50,000 people.…

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