President Obama has called First Lady Michelle Obama “the most quintessentially American woman I know”. Her family tree is said to include American Indian as well as white ancestors.
With today’s publication of the previously unknown details of Michelle Obama’s American ancestery, the First Lady and the whole world, too, knows much more about her past, than even details unearthed in the campaign.
The remarkable narrative of Mrs Obama’s maternal roots was laid out for the first time by The New York Times, using research by Megan Smolenyak, a renowned genealogist.
Michelle Obama’s Slavery Roots
A key document in Michelle Obama’s history concerns the discovery of Melvinia Shields, a girl born into slavery, bequeathed to a white family in Georgia and impregnated as a teenager by an unknown white man on a farm near Atlanta in the 1850s.
The breakthrough in piecing together a journey across five generations from the slave-holding South to the White House came with the discovery of a will written in 1850 by David Patterson, a South Carolina estate-owner. Follow details of Michelle Obama’s story via the London Times or in a similar report, filed in Private Lives and published by the New York Times, who co-produced the research.
We are sensitive to how it must feel reading about one’s history, in the company of the whole world. People like Oprah have said that the truth is ultimately liberating, rather than living in the shadows of one’s past, one now has a known history, an identity with a long history.
In the First Lady’s case, her story is indeed the journey of America — the great, the not-so-great, and the downright ugly. Some American stories are a devolution from early greatness into debauchery and decay.
This is not the case of Michelle Obama. Hers is the story of an American family fighting its way forward into legal status, public recognition and the opportunity to excel in their own pursuit of, and contribution to, the American dream. Anne