A surviving shack along road once known as Slave Street on a South Carolina plantation. Michelle Obama’s great-great-grandfather, who was born around 1850, lived as a slave, at least until the Civil War, on the sprawling rice plantation. (Tribune photo by Alex Garcia / November 22, 2008)
by Frank James
Michelle Obama’s roots can be traced back to slaves on a South Carolina rice plantation which makes her becoming the next first lady deeply poignant since, as my colleague Dahleen Glanton points out in a piece on the future first lady’s slave heritage, the White House was built by slaves.
One curious aspect of Dahleen’s report was this:
Barack Obama’s campaign hired genealogists to research the family’s roots at the onset of his presidential bid, but aides have largely kept the findings secret. Genealogists at Lowcountry Africana, a research center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, scoured documents to put together a 120-page report, according to project director Toni Carrier. She said the center signed a confidentiality agreement and is not allowed to disclose the findings publicly.
However, in his now-famous speech on race during the primary, Barack Obama stated he was “married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners.”
Obama aides declined to discuss the report or allow Michelle Obama to be interviewed about her ancestry. She has said she knew little about her family tree before the campaign, but census reports, property records and other historical documents show that her paternal ancestors bore witness to one of the most shameful chapters in American history.