Author and Former First Lady
Poet, Writer and Activist
Did you know?
Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou are two of the most inspiring voices of our time. They have had an immeasurable impact on both American society and the world at large. As it turns out, they are also related!
Click to learn more about the family connection between Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou.
Maya was a Pulitzer-nominated poet, memoirist, and activist whose contributions to the civil rights movement were widely recognized, and her memoirs and poetry have uplifted spirits across the nation. Michelle was the First Lady of the United States from 2008–2016, celebrated for her active role in numerous programs she set in motion that promoted health and nutrition, education for girls, and other causes. Both women have inspired generations to embrace their whole selves and reach for their dreams.
When Maya introduced Michelle to the audience on a presidential campaign tour, she called the future First Lady a “phenomenal woman” — a reference to her own famous poem celebrating the beauty and power of black women. Michelle in turn spoke of Maya with great reverence. After Maya’s death in 2014, Michelle gave a speech in which she referred to Maya as “one of the greatest spirits the world has ever known,” and referred to Maya’s work as “words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House.” “I am following in the footsteps of great women like Maya Angelou,” she said.
Michelle also mentioned during that speech that her husband Barack’s sister was named after Maya.
We are sure she’d be delighted and honored to know that she, herself, is a distant cousin of the poet and activist she admired so much.
Dr. Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928. After a rough childhood and a career as a cable car conductor and dancer, she focused on writing, and upon meeting Martin Luther King Jr., became a civil rights activist. In 1993, she became the second poet in the history of the United States to make an inaugural recitation with her piece, “On the Pulse of Morning.”
Michelle Obama was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago in 1964. Growing up in a working-class family in the south side of Chicago, Michelle excelled in school and was eventually accepted into Princeton University, and after graduating cum laude, went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She met her husband, Barack Obama, when serving as his mentor at the law firm he joined as a summer associate. He later became a politician and was eventually elected President of the United States.
Michelle’s father, Fraser C. Robinson III, is a descendant of a man named John Francis Adams, born in 1647 in Virginia, the United States. John had a son, Gabriel, and a daughter, Eleanor. Fraser descends from Gabriel, while Maya’s father, Bailey J. Johnson, is a descendant of Eleanor. This makes Michelle Maya’s 8th cousin once removed!