Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago Illinois, to parents Marian and Fraser Robinson. Although Fraser’s modest pay Chicago, as a city-pump operator led to cramped living in their South Shore bungalow, the Robinsons were a close-knit family, with Michelle and older brother Craig pushed to excel in school. Both children skipped the second grade, and Michelle was later chosen for a gifted-student program that enabled her to take French and advanced biology courses.
Making the lengthy daily trip to attend Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Michelle became student council treasurer and a member of the National Honor Society before graduating as class salutatorian in 1981. She then followed her brother to Princeton University, where she created a reading program for the children of the school’s manual laborers. A sociology major with a minor in African-American studies, she explored the connections between the school’s black alumni and their communities in her senior thesis, graduating cum laude in 1985.
The first African American First Lady can trace her ancestry through five generations of history, from slavery to the White House. Her paternal great-great grandfather, Jim Robinson, was a slave from South Carolina, as was her maternal great-great-grandmother, Melvinia Shields. Around 1859 Charles Shields, one of her slaveowners sons, fathered her first-born son when she was roughly 15 years old, although precise details of the relationship and the birth date are not known. The child — Michelle Obama’s maternal great-great grandfather — was named Dolphus T. Shields. He was listed in an 1870 census as “mulatto”. 88-year-old Helen Heath, who attended church with him, recalled that his hair texture and light skin “told you he has to be near white.” The family were descendents of Andrew Shields, a white protestant Irish immigrant who fought against the British in the American revolutionary war of the late 18th century.
As First Lady she also supports military families, helps working women balance their careers and families, encourages national service, promotes the arts and arts education, and fosters healthy eating and healthy living for children and families across the country. Additionally, she has earned widespread publicity on the topic of healthy eating by planting the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt served as First Lady.