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Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama

First Lady 2009–2017 Born 1964, Chicago, Illinois

After graduating from Princeton University, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson earned a law degree from Harvard University. She then returned to her hometown of Chicago, where she met her future husband, Barack Obama, while working in intellectual property law. As the first lady and as the mother of two daughters, Obama was inspired to reach young people through various health and education initiatives that included Let’s Move, Reach Higher, and Let Girls Learn. The latter fought to ensure that girls worldwide were afforded equal access to learning opportunities. Since leaving the White House, she has continued to empower young women around the world with the Girls Opportunity Alliance.

When Amy Sherald’s portrait of Obama was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in 2018, many viewers were pleased while others were shocked by the artist’s distinctive approach, which uses grey for skin color as a way to look beyond the superficial differences of race.

Gift of Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg; Judith Kern and Kent Whealy; Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia; Clarence, DeLoise, and Brenda Gaines; Jonathan and Nancy Lee Kemper; The Stoneridge Fund of Amy and Marc Meadows; Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker; Catherine and Michael Podell; Mark and Cindy Aron; Lyndon J. Barrois and Janine Sherman Barrois; The Honorable John and Louise Bryson; Paul and Rose Carter; Bob and Jane Clark; Lisa R. Davis; Shirley Ross Davis and Family; Alan and Lois Fern; Conrad and Constance Hipkins; Sharon and John Hoffman; Audrey M. Irmas; John Legend and Chrissy Teigen; Eileen Harris Norton; Helen Hilton Raiser; Philip and Elizabeth Ryan; Roselyne Chroman Swig; Josef Vascovitz and Lisa Goodman; Eileen Baird; Dennis and Joyce Black Family Charitable Foundation; Shelley Brazier; Aryn Drake-Lee; Andy and Teri Goodman; Randi Charno Levine and Jeffrey E. Levine; Fred M. Levin and Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation; Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago; Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen; Sara and John Schram; Alyssa Taubman and Robert Rothman

2018
Oil on linen
192.6 x 162.1 x 12.4 cm
NPG.2018.15
Image and text © National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2023

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