Barack Obama has called his wife Michelle "the most quintessentially American woman I know." Her family is of African-American heritage, descendents of Africans of the American Colonial Era. Michelle Obama's family history traces back from slavery to Reconstruction to the Great Migration North. Some of Michelle's relatives still reside in South Carolina.
Michelle's earliest known relative is her great-great grandfather Jim Robinson, born in the 1850s, who was an American slave on the Friendfield plantation in South Carolina. The family believes that after the Civil War he remained a Friendfield plantation sharecropper for the rest of his life and that he was buried there in an unmarked grave.
Jim married twice, first to a woman named Louiser with whom had two sons, Gabriel and Fraser, Michelle Obama's great-grandfather. There was also a daughter born to the family, but there is no reference to a name and she is believed to have died as a child. His second marriage to Rose Ella Cohen bore 6 other children. Fraser had an arm amputated as a result of a boyhood injury. He worked as a shoemaker, newspaper salesman and in a lumber mill. Carrie Nelson, Gabriel Robinson's daughter, now 80, is the oldest living Robinson and the keeper of family lore.
At least three of Michelle Obama's great-uncles served in the military of the United States. One aunt moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where she worked as a maid, and cooked Southern-style meals for Michelle and her brother, Craig, when they were students at Princeton University.
- Marian Shields Robinson
Michelle Obama's mother (birthname Marian Shields, born July 1937), now widowed, married Michelle's father, Fraser Robinson, in 1960. Robinson was formerly a secretary at Spiegel catalog and a bank. While Michelle and Barack Obama were campaigning in 2008, Robinson tended the Obama's young children and she intends to do the same while in Washington, DC. Robinson is currently living in the White House itself as part of the First Family; she is the first live-in grandmother there since Elivera M. Doud during the Eisenhower administration. Some media outlets have dubbed Robinson the "First Granny".
- Craig Robinson
Michelle Obama's brother, born 1962. He is currently head coach of men's basketball at Oregon State University.
- Fraser C. Robinson III
Michelle Obama's father, born August 1, 1935, died 1991, married Michelle's mother, Marian Shields, in 1960. Robinson was a pump worker at the City of Chicago water plant.
- Fraser Robinson, Jr.
Michelle Obama's grandfather was born on August 24, 1912 in Georgetown, South Carolina, and died on November 9, 1996, aged 84. He was a good student and orator, but moved from South Carolina to Chicago to find better work than he could find at home, eventually becoming a worker for the United States Postal Service. He was married to LaVaughn Johnson. When he retired, they moved back to South Carolina.
- LaVaughn D. Johnson
Michelle Obama's grandmother (1915-2002) and wife of Fraser Robinson Jr. She was born to James Preston Johnson (1880-1920?) and Phoebe (1879-1920?) in Chicago.
- Capers C. Funnye Jr.
Michelle Obama's first cousin once removed: Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (born Verdelle Robinson; August 22, 1930 – April 16, 2000) and Michelle Obama’s paternal grandfather, Fraser Robinson Jr., were siblings. One of America's most prominent African American rabbis, known for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and African Americans.