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AfriGeneas News & Announcements
October 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Michelle Obama is Invited to Visit the Grave of Slave Kin in South Carolina

Michelle Obama has been invited to visit the grave of one of her ancestors on Friendfield plantation, formerly owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Whitney Tower says Michelle Obama is welcome to visit the grave of a slave ancestor on his family's South Carolina plantation.

One of Tower's great-great-grandfathers was ferry and railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, and one of Michelle Robinson Obama's great-great-grandfathers was Jim Robinson, who was born a slave in 1850 at Friendfield in Georgetown, S.C.

Tower, who's also a cousin of Anderson Cooper and is writing a memoir of addiction, "The Gilded Needle," told us: "After Lincoln freed the slaves, Jim Robinson stayed on and worked there. We believe he was buried there in 1888, in the African-American cemetery. Ms. Obama is welcome to visit anytime."

Tower's mother, Frances Cheston Train, herself a descendant of the Drexel family, inherited the 3,000-acre farm, of which she's written a history, "In Those Days: A Carolina Plantation." Her family did not own it in the slave era.

Michelle Obama visited Georgetown as a child and reconnected with relatives still living there while on a campaign stop in January, reported Shailagh Murray in an extensive Washington Post article on her genealogy. Her otherwise communicative family "didn't talk about that," and she had no idea of her connection to Friendfield, though she passed it "countless times" as a child, Obama said.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: New York Daily News

Posted by Staff on 10/15/08 at 8:39 pm EST

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Family Tree Rooted In American Soil: Michelle Obama Learns About Her Slave Ancestors

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 2, 2008


The old plantation where Michelle Obama's great-great-grandfather lived is tucked behind the tire stores and veterinary clinics of U.S. Highway 521. But its history and grounds have been meticulously preserved, down to the dikes that once controlled the flow of water into its expansive rice fields.

Not much is known about Jim Robinson, however, including how or when he came to Friendfield, as the property is still called. But records show he was born around 1850 and lived, at least until the Civil War, as a slave. His family believes that he remained a Friendfield worker all his life and that he was buried at the place, in an unmarked grave.

Until she reconnected with relatives here in January on a campaign trip, Obama did not know much about her ancestry, or even that Friendfield existed. As she was growing up in Chicago, her parents did not talk about the family's history, and the young Michelle Robinson didn't ask many questions.

But if her husband is elected president in November, he will not be the only one in the family making history. While Barack Obama's provenance -- his black Kenyan father, white Kansas-born mother and Hawaiian childhood -- has been celebrated as a uniquely American example of multicultural identity, Michelle Obama's family history -- from slavery to Reconstruction to the Great Migration north -- connects her to the essence of the African American experience.

To Rep. James E. Clyburn (D), whose district includes part of Georgetown County, the possibility that a descendant of slaves could be first lady is just as momentous as the prospect of a black man as president. "I believe she could play as pivotal a role as her husband could, if not more so. It would allow us an opportunity to get beyond some of our preconceived notions, some of our prejudices," he said.

Read the rest of the story . . .

Source: The Washington Post

Posted by Staff on 10/02/08 at 4:39 am EST

6 Jul 2003 :: 07 Dec 2008
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