A new book explores the role of race for first lady Michelle Obama.
Time reported that a Northwestern University professor, Peter Slevin, unveiled the tragic racial problems she faced in his upcoming biography, Michelle Obama: A Life.
In the book it discussed how during her senior year at Princeton University, First Lady Michelle Obama couldn’t imagine she would live to see the election of the nation’s first African American, let alone be married to him.
“To say that during her Princeton years she could not envision an African American president is like saying that the sun rises and sets every day.”
Much of the book is an exploration of the racial and cultural history of Chicago, a city with a rich history of segregation and strife, that’s also home to a neighborhood where the Obama’s home is located that White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett describes as “the real world as it should be.”
It also talks about the First Lady’s life and draws the importance her race has played in her life trajectory.
Michelle and her brother Craig lived in a tiny apartment on the second floor of a bungalow on South Euclid Avenue, where their resourceful parents emphasized the importance of getting an education while filling the gaps on black history left open by their Chicago Public School education.
She would later have to ride public transportation to the sprawling magnet high school she attended, named after civil rights icon Whitney Young, where counselors would tell her she wasn’t a good fit for her dream school of Princeton.
Her sights, they said, were too high. She’d later use that same rhetoric to urge folks to vote for her husband, a freshman Senator with his sights set on the White House. And eventually, the story would help her persuade audiences of young people, particularly black and brown students, to focus on getting a college education as a part of her Reach Higher Initiative at the White House.
The book continued to discuss the Obama’s budding romance.
The author notes that at one point Michelle’s mother, Marian, worried that Barack’s biracial background would make navigating society’s prejudices difficult.
In the end, though, she accepted the future president who she said “shared the values of [their] family.”
“That didn’t concern me as much as had he been completely white. . . . I guess that I worry about races mixing because of the difficulty — not for, so much for prejudice or anything. It’s just very hard.” Robinson laughed.
Slevin notes that the concerns didn’t cause her to oppose the marriage. Robinson’s son Craig has said his mother was supportive of his marriage in 2006 to his wife, the former Kelly McCrum, who is white. “The reactions of my mother and Michelle were somewhere between ‘Phew!’ and ‘Hallelujah,’ ” Craig Robinson wrote in his book “A Game of Character.”
The first lady’s office had no immediate comment on the book, which largely depicts Michelle Obama as high and mighty, while also bringing up her race and the role race played in shaping her worldview, particularly at Princeton and Harvard Law.
The Washington Post reported that in the past, the first lady has not looked favorably on books about her.
Upon the 2012 publication of “The Obamas” by Jodi Kantor of the New York Times, Obama told Gayle King, a journalist and friend:
“I never read those books. . . . Who can write about how I feel? Who? What third person can tell me how I feel?”
Barack Obama said his wife has begun working on her own memoir, to be published after his White House term ends.
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