Michelle Obama, the former first lady of the United States, is widely admired for her intelligence, grace, and achievements. She is also known for her strong family values and her devotion to her husband, Barack Obama, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha. But did you know that Michelle Obama has a surprising connection to one of the most iconic figures in American sports history? According to some sources, Michelle Obama is related to Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. How is this possible? Let’s find out.
The Family Tree of Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois. She is the daughter of Fraser Robinson III and Marian Shields Robinson, who raised her and her older brother, Craig, on the South Side of Chicago. Michelle’s parents were both descendants of enslaved African Americans who lived in the American South before the Civil War. According to Britannica, Michelle’s 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 Michelle’s paternal relatives still live in the Georgetown area.
Michelle’s maternal ancestry is more diverse and includes people of English, Irish, Scottish, and Native American descent. According to Ancestry.com, one of Michelle’s maternal ancestors was Melvinia Shields, a biracial woman who was born into slavery around 1844 in South Carolina. She had several children with different white men, including Dolphus Shields, Michelle’s great-great-grandfather. Dolphus Shields moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he became a carpenter and a property owner. He married Alice Easley, a mixed-race woman who was also born to an enslaved mother and a white father. Dolphus and Alice had several children, including Robert Lee Shields, Michelle’s great-grandfather. Robert Lee Shields married Annie Johnson, a woman of Native American and African American ancestry. They had a daughter named Rebecca Jumper (later Coleman), who was Michelle’s grandmother. Rebecca married Purnell Nathaniel Shields (no relation to Dolphus), a painter and carpenter who was also of mixed-race heritage. They had a daughter named Marian Lois Shields (later Robinson), who was Michelle’s mother.
The Family Tree of Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson was born Jack Roosevelt Robinson on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia. He was the youngest of five children born to Jerry Robinson and Mallie McGriff Robinson, who were sharecroppers on a plantation owned by a white family. Jackie’s father left the family when Jackie was six months old, and his mother moved with her children to Pasadena, California, where they faced racial discrimination and poverty. Jackie became an outstanding athlete in high school and college, excelling in football, basketball, track, and baseball. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II but faced court-martial for refusing to sit at the back of a segregated bus. He was acquitted of the charges and received an honorable discharge.
In 1945, Jackie joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League as a baseball player. He caught the attention of Branch Rickey, the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was looking for a black player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Jackie signed with the Dodgers in 1947 and made history as the first African American to play in the major leagues in the modern era. He faced racism and hostility from fans, opponents, and even some teammates but persevered with courage and dignity. He became one of the best players in baseball history and helped the Dodgers win six National League pennants and one World Series championship. He was named Rookie of the Year in 1947, Most Valuable Player in 1949, and was selected to six All-Star teams. He retired from baseball in 1956 and became a civil rights activist and a businessman. He died of complications from diabetes and heart disease on October 24, 1972.
Jackie married Rachel Isum in 1946 and they had three children: Jackie Jr., Sharon, and David. Jackie Jr., who struggled with drug addiction and mental illness after serving in Vietnam War , died in a car accident in 1971 at age 24. Sharon became a nurse-midwife and an educator , while David became a coffee farmer in Tanzania . Rachel became a nurse , an assistant professor , and an advocate for social justice . She also founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation , which provides scholarships and mentoring for minority students.
The Surprising Connection Between Michelle Obama and Jackie Robinson
So how are Michelle Obama and Jackie Robinson related? The answer lies in their maternal ancestry . According to Ancestry.com , both Michelle Obama and Jackie Robinson are descendants of Melvinia Shields, the biracial woman who was born into slavery in South Carolina. This means that Michelle Obama and Jackie Robinson are distant cousins, sharing a common great-great-great-grandmother.
The connection between Michelle Obama and Jackie Robinson was discovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist who was hired by The New York Times to research Michelle Obama’s family tree in 2009. Smolenyak traced Michelle Obama’s maternal line back to Melvinia Shields and found out that she had a son named Charles Marion Shields, who was Jackie Robinson’s grandfather. Smolenyak contacted Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, and informed her of the surprising discovery. Rachel Robinson was delighted to learn that she had a famous relative in the White House and said that she felt a kinship with Michelle Obama.
The connection between Michelle Obama and Jackie Robinson is not only a fascinating piece of trivia but also a testament to the resilience and diversity of African American families who have overcome slavery, segregation, and discrimination. It also shows how two remarkable individuals from different generations and backgrounds share a common heritage and a common legacy of breaking barriers and inspiring others.