Fraser Robinson III, Marian, and their children, Craig and Michelle - now Michelle Obama.
The New York Times reports the fascinating story of Michelle Obama's slave heritage back to a 6-year-old slave girl named Melvinia in pre-Civil War South Carolina.
The Times story covers the first lady's history to her great-great-great-grandparents, the lone girl and an unknown white man after she had been willed to a family near Atlanta a few years before the Civil War. Born from that coupling was Dolphus T. Shields.
The exploration of family roots by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times -- bears out longstanding family rumors about a white forebear, the former Michelle Robinson said.
The Times reports that it's unclear who the actual father of Dolphus Shields was once Melvinia became the property of Henry Shields in 1852:
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."
Just as interesting is the family tree the Times has put together as the Robinson family history has pieced together, The Family Tree of Michelle Obama: The First Lady. It traces her family steps through tattered paperwork and faded photographs back to that 6-year-old slave on a Carolina plantation. It also serves to illuminate the mixed-race background of the first lady's heritage and discusses how that's becoming a much more common reality in a nation made up of so many races and heritages.
Much like a report in the Chicago Sun-Times exploring the family tree of Barack Obama, the Times report illuminates a rich, multi-ethnic background for the first lady, though Michelle's history is far less well-known.
When Melvinia died in 1938, her death certificate marks "don't know" in the space asking for the 90-year-old's parents name, so the retracing ends with her.