Michelle Obama's Genealogy

Michelle Obama

For most of us, family history is a kitchen table conversation. Personal. Private. And sometimes just a mystery.

When you’re First Lady — and the first African-American First Lady in the White House — it’s different.

Last week — page one, New York Times — new research on Michelle Obama’s family tree was laid out for the world, and for her.

A great, great, great grandmother traded away at six as a slave. A white father to that slave’s children, Michelle Obama’s family line.

This hour, On Point: Michelle Obama’s family tree, and the story it tells about our history, our country. 

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from Philadelphia is Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist who worked with The New York Times to investigate Michelle Obama’s family tree. The result was the recent article, “In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery.” She is also president of and author of several books, including “Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree.”

From Washington we’re joined by Edna Greene Medford, professor of history at Howard University and an expert in 19th-century African-American history. She’s co-author of “The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views.”

Also from Washington we’re joined by Sam Sanders. He’s an NPR Kroc Fellow, a program for aspiring public radio journalists, and a former intern for On Point. He blogs at “The Not So Angry Black Man.”

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