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Michelle Robinson was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 17, 1964. Her father, Fraser, was a pump operator, and her mother, Marian, raised Michelle and her brother Craig at home.1

After graduating from public school, Michelle earned her B.A. in sociology from Princeton University in 1985 and then attended Harvard Law School, receiving her Juris Doctor three years later. Michelle then returned to Chicago, pursuing a law career at the firm Sidley and Austin, where she met summer intern Barack Obama. They later married on October 3, 1992.2 Michelle Obama left corporate law in the years that followed, working in public service at organizations including Chicago City Hall, Public Allies, the University of Chicago, and the University of Chicago Hospital.3 Meanwhile, she supported her husband’s political goals as he campaigned for and won Illinois and U.S. Senate seats. The Obamas also had two daughters during this period: Malia and Natasha (Sasha).

In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American elected to the presidency, and in January 2009 the Obamas moved into the White House. As first lady, Michelle Obama pursued several initiatives. First, she sought to reduce childhood obesity with her “Let’s Move” campaign, which encouraged physical activity for children and provided healthier school lunches. As part of her campaign, Michelle Obama planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn in 2009, which provided fresh fruits and vegetables for the White House and the local community. Working with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, she also introduced “Joining Forces,” an initiative to support service members, veterans, and their families. Michelle Obama’s passion for supporting young people as they pursue their dreams led to “Reach Higher,” an initiative focused on higher education and career support for students. Another initiative, “Let Girls Learn,” promoted education for adolescent girls around the globe.

In addition to her duties as first lady, Michelle Obama filled the role she called “Mom-in-Chief” to her daughters. The first lady also spearheaded renovations of the State Dining Room and the Family Dining Room, modernizing décor and unveiling the first painting in the White House Collection by a Black woman: Resurrection by Alma Thomas. In fact, the Obamas selected several pieces of modern, abstract artwork for the White House Collection, including works by Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Josef Albers.4 The Obamas also filled the White House with music, welcoming major names in pop, rock, jazz, and musical theater, among other genres.

Since leaving the White House in 2017, Michelle Obama has continued to support young people and military families. She also published best-selling books, Becoming (2018) and The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times (2022) and currently works with the Obama Foundation and the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Footnotes & Resources

  1. “First Lady Michelle Obama,” Obama White House, https://obamawhitehouse.archiv....
  2. Michelle Obama, Becoming (New York: Crown Publishing, 2018).
  3. “First Lady Michelle Obama,” Barack Obama Presidential Library,
  4. William Kloss, Art in the White House: Recent Acquisitions (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2019).