Tiny wooden cabins line the dirt road once known as Slave Street as it winds its way through Friendfield Plantation.
More than 200 slaves lived in the whitewashed shacks in the early 1800s, and some of their descendants remained here for more than a century after the Civil War. The last tenants abandoned the hovels about three decades ago, and even they would have struggled to imagine a distant daughter of the plantation one day calling the White House home.
But a historical line can be drawn from these Low Country cabins to Michelle Obama, charting an American family’s improbable journey through slavery, segregation, the civil rights movement and a historic presidential election.
Their documented passage begins with Jim Robinson, Obama’s great-great-grandfather, who was born around 1850 and lived as a slave, at least until the Civil War, on the sprawling rice plantation. Records show he remained on the estate after the war, working as a sharecropper and living in the old slave quarters with his wife, Louiser, and their children. He could neither read nor write, according to the 1880 census.
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