Michelle Frances Biography & Facts
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (born January 17, 1964) is an American attorney and author who served as the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She was the first African-American woman to serve in this position. She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In her early legal career, she worked at the law firm Sidley Austin where she met Barack Obama. She subsequently worked in nonprofits and as the associate dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago as well as the vice president for Community and External Affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center. Michelle married Barack in 1992, and together they have two daughters.
Obama campaigned for her husband's presidential bid throughout 2007 and 2008, delivering a keynote address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She has subsequently delivered acclaimed speeches at the 2012, 2016, and 2020 conventions.
As first lady, Obama served as a role model for women and worked as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She supported American designers and was considered a fashion icon.After her husband's presidency, her influence remained high; in 2020, Obama topped Gallup's poll of the most admired woman in America for the third year running.
Family and education
Early life and ancestry
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois, to Fraser Robinson III (1935–1991), a city water plant employee and Democratic precinct captain, and Marian Shields Robinson (b. July 30, 1937), a secretary at Spiegel's catalog store. Her mother was a full-time homemaker until Michelle entered high school.The Robinson and Shields families trace their roots to pre-Civil War African Americans in the American South. On her father's side, she is descended from the Gullah people of South Carolina's Low Country region. Her paternal great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, was born into slavery in 1850 on Friendfield Plantation, near Georgetown, South Carolina. He became a freedman at age 15 after the war. Some of Obama's paternal family still reside in the Georgetown area. Her grandfather Fraser Robinson, Jr. built his own house in South Carolina. He and his wife LaVaughn (née Johnson) returned to the Low Country from Chicago after retirement.Among her maternal ancestors was her great-great-great-grandmother, Melvinia Shields, born into slavery in South Carolina but sold to Henry Walls Shields, who had a 200-acre farm in Clayton County, Georgia near Atlanta. Melvinia's first son, Dolphus T. Shields, was biracial and born into slavery around 1860. Based on DNA and other evidence, in 2012 researchers said his father was likely 20-year-old Charles Marion Shields, son of Melvinia's master. They may have had a continuing relationship, as she had two more mixed-race children and lived near Shields after emancipation, taking his surname (she later changed her surname).As was often the case, Melvinia did not talk to relatives about Dolphus's father. Dolphus Shields, with his wife Alice, moved to Birmingham, Alabama after the Civil War. They were great-great-grandparents of Michelle Robinson, whose grandparents had moved to Chicago. Other of their children's lines migrated to Cleveland, Ohio in the 20th century.All four of Robinson's grandparents had multiracial ancestors, reflecting the complex history of the U.S. Her extended family has said that people did not talk about the era of slavery when they were growing up. Her distant ancestry includes Irish, English, and Native American roots. Among her contemporary extended family is Rabbi Capers Funnye; born in Georgetown, South Carolina. Funnye is the son of her grandfather Robinson's sister and her husband, and he is about 12 years older than Michelle. Funnye converted to Judaism after college. He is a paternal first cousin once-removed.Robinson's childhood home was on the upper floor of 7436 South Euclid Avenue in Chicago's South Shore community area, which her parents rented from her great-aunt, who had the first floor. She was raised in what she describes as a "conventional" home, with "the mother at home, the father works, you have dinner around the table". Her elementary school was down the street. She and her family enjoyed playing games such as Monopoly, reading, and frequently saw extended family on both sides. She played piano, learning from her great-aunt, who was a piano teacher. The Robinsons attended services at nearby South Shore United Methodist Church. They used to vacation in a rustic cabin in White Cloud, Michigan. She and her 21-month-older brother, Craig, skipped the second grade.Her father suffered from multiple sclerosis, which had a profound emotional effect on her as she was growing up. She was determined to stay out of trouble and be a good student, which was what her father wanted for her. By sixth grade, Michelle joined a gifted class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School (later renamed Bouchet Academy). She attended Whitney Young High School, Chicago's first magnet high school, established as a selective enrollment school, where she was a classmate of Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita. The round-trip commute from the Robinsons' South Side home to the Near West Side, where the school was located, took three hours. Michelle recalled being fearful of how others would perceive her, but disregarded any negativity around her and used it "to fuel me, to keep me going". She recalled facing gender discrimination growing up, saying, for example, that rather than asking her for her opinion on a given subject, people commonly tended to ask what her older brother thought. She was on the honor roll for four years, took advanced placement classes, was a member of the National Honor Society, and served as student council treasurer. She graduated in 1981 as the salutatorian of her class.
Education and early career
Robinson was inspired to follow her brother to Princeton University, which she entered in 1981.
She majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985 after completing a 99-page senior thesis titled "Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community" under the supervision of Walter Wallace.Robinson recalls that some of her teachers in high school tried to dissuade her from applying, and that she had been warned against "setting my sights too high". She believed her brother's status as an alumnus – he graduated in 1983, before being hired as a basketball coach at Oregon State University and Brown University – may have helped her during the admission process, but she was resolved to demonstrate her own worth. She has said she was overwhelmed during her first year, attributing this to the fact that neither of her parents had graduated from college, and that sh.... Discover the Michelle Frances popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Michelle Frances books.