Poignant Tweet Honors Michelle Obama and Her Ancestor Who Was Born into Slavery

Melvinia Shields Michelle Obama Ancestry

In one poignant tweet, filmmaker Ava DuVernay honors the incredible legacy of a woman born into slavery by showing just how far her ancestors have come since. DuVernany, who’s behind films like Selma and 13th, shared a picture of a memorial commemorating Melvinia Shields, a black woman who was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1844. Chances are, her name doesn’t ring a bell, but one of her descendants definitely will; Former First Lady Michelle Obama is Shields’ great-great-great granddaughter.

The memorial is inscribed with the following passage:

She was born a slave in South Carolina in 1844. At age 6 she was brought to the nearby Shields farm in what is now Rex, Clayton County, Georgia.

Her family would endure a five-generation journey that began in oppression and would lead her descendent to become first lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama. Theirs is a story of hope.

DuVernay’s photo alone is powerful, but her short, empowering caption is icing on the cake. “Become your ancestor's wildest dream,” she wrote. Although brief, the sentiment speaks volumes. It points out that despite the overwhelming obstacles faced, the African American community has made incredible progress;  many people today are accomplishing things that would’ve been unthinkable hundreds of years ago. And while there’s plenty more that needs to be done, these modern achievements should be celebrated.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay recently tweeted a picture of a memorial honoring Melvinia Shields, a black woman born into slavery in 1844.

As it turns out, Shield is one link in Michelle Obama's ancestry. DuVernay's caption both celebrates and empowers members of the black community.

After tweeting this message, other people responded with their own family history and highlighted the importance of remembering history.

h/t: [A Plus]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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