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MSNBC Says mishill is a slave. Is that racist?


Rachel L. Swarns – NYT: First Lady’s Slave Roots Revealed – Michelle Obama’s Family Journey from Bondage to the White House

By Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Kantor
The New York Times
updated 7:50 a.m. ET, Thurs., Oct . 8, 2009
WASHINGTON – In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.
In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.
In the annals of American slavery, this painful story would be utterly unremarkable, save for one reason: This union, consummated some two years before the Civil War, represents the origins of a family line that would extend from rural Georgia, to Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago and, finally, to the White House.
Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama , the first lady.
Viewed by many as a powerful symbol of black advancement, Mrs. Obama grew up with only a vague sense of her ancestry, aides and relatives said. During the presidential campaign, the family learned about one paternal great-great-grandfather, a former slave from South Carolina, but the rest of Mrs. Obama’s roots were a mystery.
Now the more complete map of Mrs. Obama’s ancestors — including the slave mother, white father and their biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields — for the first time fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery, tracing their five-generation journey from bondage to a front-row seat to the presidency.
The findings — uncovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times — substantiate what Mrs. Obama has called longstanding family rumors about a white forebear.
While President Obama ’s biracial background has drawn considerable attention, his wife’s pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans. Mrs. Obama and her family declined to comment for this article, aides said, in part because of the personal nature of the subject.
“She is representative of how we have evolved and who we are,” said Edward Ball, a historian who discovered that he had black relatives, the descendants of his white slave-owning ancestors, when he researched his memoir, “Slaves in the Family.”
“We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America,” Mr. Ball said. “We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”
The outlines of Mrs. Obama’s family history unfolded from 19th century probate records , yellowing marriage licenses, fading photographs and the recollections of elderly women who remember the family. Ms. Smolenyak, who has traced the ancestry of many prominent figures, began studying the first lady’s roots in earnest after conducting some preliminary research into Mrs. Obama’s ancestry for an article published in The New York Times earlier this year.
Of the dozens of relatives she identified, Ms. Smolenyak said, it was the slave girl who seemed to call out most clearly.
“Out of all Michelle’s roots, it’s Melvinia who is screaming to be found,” she said.
Strange and unfamiliar world
When her owner, David Patterson, died in 1852, Melvinia soon found herself on a 200-acre farm with new masters, Mr. Patterson’s daughter and son-in law, Christianne and Henry Shields. It was a strange and unfamiliar world.
In South Carolina, she had lived on an estate with 21 slaves. In Georgia, she was one of only three slaves on property that is now part of a neat subdivision in Rex, near Atlanta.
Whether Melvinia labored in the house or in the fields, there was no shortage of work: wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and cotton to plant and harvest, and 3 horses, 5 cows, 17 pigs and 20 sheep to care for, according to an 1860 agricultural survey .
It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm.
“No one should be surprised anymore to hear about the number of rapes and the amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery; it was an everyday experience, “ said Jason A. Gillmer, a law professor at Texas Wesleyan University, who has researched liaisons between slave owners and slaves. “But we do find that some of these relationships can be very complex.”
In 1870, three of Melvinia’s fo

It’s not saying anybody living is a slave. It’s called history and geneology, sweetie.

I doubt that anyone with any shred of intelligence would consider the description of a slave as a slave to be racist.

  1. The K!LLER Anna
    May 19th, 2011 at 11:08 | #1

    "is it racist?"

    even if the answer’s no…the answer’s yes….
    References :

  2. JW B
    May 19th, 2011 at 11:40 | #2

    I will speak slowly…n..o…

    You see her ancestor was a slave, as were most African Americans. The story is interesting as it is a window into the history of our country. I am surprised that this is hard to comprehend.

    References :

  3. tonalc2
    May 19th, 2011 at 12:18 | #3

    It’s not saying anybody living is a slave. It’s called history and geneology, sweetie.

    I doubt that anyone with any shred of intelligence would consider the description of a slave as a slave to be racist.
    References :

  4. Samer
    May 19th, 2011 at 13:05 | #4

    No, I think the only media station that we should worry about is the FOX network. They promoted the death of George Tiller, strike terror in the hearts of people by saying Barack Obama is turning this country communist and a whole string of other lies.
    References :

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