First Lady Michelle Obama’s family – black, white and multiracial – journeyed from slavery to the White House in five generations. Her forbears included slaves who toiled on vast plantations, mixed-race people who lived free for decades before Emancipation, and Irish-Americans who fought for the Confederacy. In this presentation to the Washington History Seminar, Rachel L. Swarns explored an intimate family history that mirrors the bloodlines of countless Americans and reflects the collective story of our changing nation.
Rachel L. Swarns is a correspondent for The New York Times, based in Washington, D.C. She has written about domestic policy and national politics, reporting on immigration and the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008. She has also worked overseas for The Times, reporting from Russia, Cuba and southern Africa. In Africa, where she served as Johannesburg bureau chief, she reported on the turmoil in Zimbabwe, the problems of racial reconciliation in South Africa and the civil war in Angola. She currently writes about demographics, social trends and the modern American family.
A video of her talk is available here.