American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama [NOOK Book]

Overview

Michelle Obama's family saga is a remarkable, quintessentially American story—a journey from slavery to the White House in five generations. Yet, until now, little has been reported on the First Lady's roots. Prodigiously researched, American Tapestry traces the complex and fascinating tale of Michelle Obama's ancestors, a history that the First Lady did not even know herself. Rachel L. Swarns, a correspondent for the New York Times, brings into focus the First Lady's black, white, and ...

See more details below
American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Michelle Obama's family saga is a remarkable, quintessentially American story—a journey from slavery to the White House in five generations. Yet, until now, little has been reported on the First Lady's roots. Prodigiously researched, American Tapestry traces the complex and fascinating tale of Michelle Obama's ancestors, a history that the First Lady did not even know herself. Rachel L. Swarns, a correspondent for the New York Times, brings into focus the First Lady's black, white, and multiracial forebears, and reveals for the first time the identity of Mrs. Obama's white great-great-great-grandfather—a man who remained hidden in her lineage for more than a century.

American Tapestry illuminates the lives of the ordinary people in Mrs. Obama's family tree who fought for freedom in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars; who endured the agonies of slavery, the disappointment of Reconstruction, the displacement of the Great Migration, and the horrors of Jim Crow to build a better future for their children. Swarns even found a possible link to the Jewish Reform movement.

Though it is an intimate family history, American Tapestry is also the collective chronicle of our changing nation, a nation in which racial intermingling lingers in the bloodlines of countless citizens and slavery was the crucible through which many family lines—black, white, and Native American—were forged.

Epic in scope and beautifully rendered, this is a singularly inspiring story with resonance for us all.

Read More Show Less
  • American Tapestry
    American Tapestry  

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
…a fascinating account of the first lady's family…No political memoir has ever looked or sounded like this one: the book spans several generations of Mrs. Obama's people and reads like a panorama of black life.
—Edward Ball
The Washington Post
…Swarns has unearthed and disseminated crucial American history here. The journey, over a few hundred years, from house slave to White House is a remarkable, only-in-America story that Swarns tells with care and thoughtfulness…In Mrs. Obama's DNA is both the best and the worst of America, a narrative and a heritage that we need to know and acknowledge. Whether we like it or not, Swarns forces us to take a hard look at that heritage. For that alone, this book is a worthy and significant endeavor.
—Martha Southgate
Publishers Weekly
In this layered, scrupulously researched, and wrenching chronicle, New York Times reporter Swarns takes readers to South Carolina rice plantations, small Georgia farms, and the industrial magnets of Birmingham and Chicago as she weaves robust portraits of first lady Michelle Obama’s ancestors. At the core of this family saga is slave girl Melvinia, mother of Dolphus Shields, the first lady’s maternal great-great-grandfather. Melvinia never disclosed the paternity of either of her mixed-race sons, and Swarns’s research runs up against the inherently hidden aspect of sex across the color line in the slave-holding South. Generations later, the former Michelle Robinson’s family remained unclear on the details of her ancestry—a subject rarely discussed since the past was obscured by a present-day struggle, and “the experience of bondage was so shameful and painful that they rarely spoke of it.” Though Swarns makes little of Obama’s reaction to these revelations, she shows that the branches of the first lady’s family tree are populated by admirable and fallible people propelled by the currents of race and history, reflecting a core aspect of the African-American experience. Agent: Philippa Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (June)
New York Times Book Review
“Extraordinary. . . . A fascinating account of the First Lady’s family. . . . No political [book] has ever looked like this one.”
USA Today
“Riveting. . . . A microcosm of this country’s story. . . . The real-life saga of struggle, survival, triumph and tragedy serves as an uplifting companion to Alex Haley’s Roots.”
Boston Globe
“Richly detailed. . . . A lushly layered portrait of the nation itself. . . .Swarns weaves a narrative in which massive social changes (slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Migration) and the microscopic details of DNA play equally important roles.”
Los Angeles Times
“Swarns paints a vivid, intriguing portrait of people whose struggles, losses, and triumphs speak volumes about the pull of family and the power of American endurance.”
Essence
“A meticulously researched and eloquently written real-life detective story.”
Booklist
"A completely fascinating look at the complex ancestry of one family, African Americans, and all Americans."
Denver Post
“[A] meticulous, detailed investigation into Mrs. Obama’s family tree. . . . American Tapestry holds rewards.”
Upscale Magazine
“Swarns discovers an interesting world that not only helps to define the First Lady’s personal background but is also an essential piece of the fabric that makes up America’s roots. . . . A great glimpse into America’s multicultural foundations.”
Washington Post
“Swarns has unearthed and disseminated crucial American history here. . . . A remarkable, only-in-America story that Swarns tells with care and thoughtfulness. . . . Her passion for the story is clear and striking. . . . This book is a worthy and significant endeavor.”
Booklist (starred review)
“A completely fascinating look at the complex ancestry of one family, African Americans, and all Americans.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“The First Family becomes ever more fascinating—and ever more representative of the nation as a whole—in Rachel Swarns’s terrific investigation into the roots of Michelle Obama. . . . This is a most compelling read and more evidence for our interconnectedness as a people.”
James McBride
“A grand, important book that shows how American bloodlines are rarely wholly black or purely white, neither one race nor another. Nowhere is that more true than in American Tapestry, an eloquent history of the First Lady’s family.”
Steven Hahn
“Rachel Swarns has not only excavated, with painstaking care, the family tree that is Michelle Obama’s, but, with great insight and beautiful prose, has revealed the complex, eye-opening, and disconcerting experiences that are America. This is a work of impressive historical imagination and deep cultural significance.”
Janny Scott
“Illuminating. . . . Unforgettable in its sweep and movingly told, American Tapestry has the power to reshape our understanding of the phrase ‘descended from slaves.’”
Fergus M. Bordewich
“In this tour de force of biological sleuthing, Rachel L. Swarns explodes simplistic notions of life and love in the Old South.. . . . Swarns has bestowed upon all Americans a revelatory understanding of our shared racial heritage.”
Library Journal
New York Times correspondent Swarns outlines the fascinating journeys taken by various ancestors of First Lady Michelle Obama—the people who, across the generations, helped make her who she is today. The author not only presents these accounts but also interleaves them with the story of how she uncovered this information, which began with research for an article she wrote on the subject for the Times. Swarns discovered an ancestor, a slave named Melvinia who had two mixed-race sons. She identifies the descendants, including Michelle Obama and distant relatives who had no idea they were related to the nation's First Lady. Of course, records, no matter the skill in finding them, can tell only so much, and Swarns is very careful to distinguish the known facts from possible explanatory or additional details (e.g., the possible story behind Melvinia's mixed-race pregnancies or likely reasons why a post-Civil War black child might not have been sent to school). VERDICT The result is an engrossing book that demonstrates a lot of research, dedication, and care. Recommended to all readers interested in biographies that employ genealogical research, as well as readers in African American heritage and history. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/11.]—Sonnet Ireland, Univ. of New Orleans Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
A New York Times reporter carefully tracks the complex genealogy of Michelle Obama. Originally emerging from Swarns' reporting for the Times, this intensive research work pursues numerous Southern ancestors on both maternal and paternal sides who eventually ended up in Chicago by the 1930s looking for new opportunity. The key forebear here, the "mystery of Michelle Obama's roots," is a slave woman named Melvinia, who worked on a farm in the mid 1800s in Jonesboro, Ga., where she eventually bore several children whose father was white. After the Civil War, Melvinia stayed on in Jonesboro and had several more biracial children, until she moved away in the mid 1870s. Her older son, Dolphus, became a Baptist deacon and a successful citizen, while his grandson Purnell, having relocated with his mother to Chicago in the 1920s, plunged into the integrated South Side's scene of swinging jazz. On the other side, Swarns follows the intriguing life's wanderings of Mrs. Obama's great-grandmother, Phoebe Moten, born in 1879 in Villa Ridge, Ill., the daughter of sharecroppers and freedmen who had joined the general exodus north during or after the Civil War to flee the blighted opportunity and increasing racial violence that characterized the South. Yet the hope of finding a measure of freedom and prosperity in cities like Chicago didn't always occur, as in Phoebe's case: She and her husband, James, an itinerant minister, and their numerous children struggled to reach the middle class only to be dragged down again by racial antagonism and the Depression. Swarns provides numerous tales of heartbreak and achievement, many of which essentially make up the American story. Elegantly woven strands in a not-so-easy-to-follow whole, but tremendously moving.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062204653
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/19/2012
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 411,444
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Rachel L. Swarns has been a reporter for the New York Times since 1995, reporting on domestic policy, the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008, the First Lady, and the modern American family. She has also worked for the New York Times in Russia, Cuba, and South Africa, where she served as the Johannesburg bureau chief. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Amy Jurskis, the author of these teaching materials, holds a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia and a MAT from Agnes Scott College. A former department chair for language arts in a title one public school in Atlanta, she currently serves as a chairperson of curriculum and English teacher at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Mystery of Michelle Obama's Roots 1

Part I Migration

1 Phoebe, the Wanderer 19

2 St. Louis 29

3 Siren Song of the North 38

4 A Family Grows in Chicago 46

5 Exploding Dreams 60

6 A Child of the Jazz Age 72

7 A Man of Promise 77

8 Stumbling Backward 81

9 Love in Hard Times 87

10 Struggling and Striving 98

11 The Search for the Truth 111

Part II The Demise of Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow

12 A Man on the Rise 119

13 Left Behind 130

14 Neither Black Nor White 141

15 The Reckoning 153

16 Birmingham, The Magic City 161

17 Two Brothers, Two Destinies 171

18 The One-Armed Patriarch 179

19 Twilight 188

20 The Search for the Truth: Atlanta 198

Part III Slavery and Emancipation

21 A Slave Girl Named Melvinia 209

22 Journey To Georgia 218

23 South Carolina Gold 228

24 A Child Is Born 240

25 Born Free 251

26 Exodus 264

27 The Civil War 271

28 Uneasy Freedom 285

Epilogue: Melvinia's Secret 297

Acknowledgments 305

Notes 311

Bibliography 357

Index 369

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(4)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 19, 2012

    Recommended

    American Tapestry reads like a novel but leaves the deep impression of history, which it is. Rachel Swarns writes with passion about people who have been forgotten by the history books, but who nonetheless contributed greatly to who we are today as Americans. Howard Zinn would be proud. I am grateful for this book, and I recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 26, 2012

    exceptional ,good read

    exceptional ,good read

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 15, 2012

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out.....

    Every American needs to read this book.....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    wow I love your book

    wow I love your book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)