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Marian Robinson and her daughter, Michelle Obama

Marian Robinson (left) with her daughter, Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s X (formerly Twitter) account

Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Lois Shields Robinson, dies at 86

Former first lady Michelle Obama said her mother was ‘my rock:' ‘I simply wouldn’t be who I am today without her.’

WASHINGTON — Marian Lois Shields Robinson, 86, who raised her daughter, Michelle Obama, in a small apartment on Chicago’s South Side and later went to live in the White House when Barack Obama became president, died Friday, her family announced.

“My mom Marian Robinson was my rock, always there for whatever I needed,” Michelle Obama said in a post on X. “She was the same steady backstop for our entire family, and we are heartbroken to share she passed away today.”

The former first lady often credited her mother and her late father, Fraser, for instilling in her values and discipline while growing up at 7436 S. Euclid Ave.

Fraser Robinson, an operator at the City of Chicago Water Filtration Plant near Navy Pier, and a Democratic precinct captain, died in 1991.

After living in the White House, Mrs. Robinson moved back to Chicago, where she died Friday. The family statement announcing her death did not disclose the cause or funeral arrangements.

On Mother’s Day this year, Michelle Obama wrote, “My mom has always been my rock and I’m so grateful for all the ways she continues to show up for my family. She’s taught me so much over the years, and I feel so lucky that I get to pass that same wisdom down to my own girls.”

Michelle Obama’s childhood home at 7436 S Euclid Ave in South Shore, as it looked in 2022.

Michelle Obama’s childhood home at 7436 S Euclid Ave in South Shore, as it looked in 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

An exhibit in the Obama Presidential Center Museum, now under construction in Jackson Park, will be named in honor of Marian Robinson.

In announcing the naming of the “Opening the White House” exhibit after her mother, Michelle Obama wrote, “Growing up with my mom always was an adventure.

“It entailed trips to the library as a toddler to learn the alphabet; the entire family piling into our car to go to the local drive-in — homemade chicken in hand. It included Mom inviting family over for New Year’s Eve, raising a toast as the clock struck midnight.

“But above all else, my mother gave me nonstop, unconditional love in so many ways. She fostered in me a deep sense of confidence in who I was and who I could be by teaching me how to think for myself, how to use my own voice, and how to understand my own worth.

“I simply wouldn’t be who I am today without her.”

First lady Michelle Obama, left, and her mother Marian Robinson at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 6, 2012.

First lady Michelle Obama, left, and her mother Marian Robinson at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 6, 2012.

Charles Dharapak/AP Photos

When Barack Obama started his first term as president in January, 2009, Mrs. Robinson moved into the White House to help with child care duties for then young daughters Sasha and Malia.

During her time in Washington, she would leave the White House to go shopping or meet with friends, moving around the city unrecognized, a situation her famous daughter, who missed shopping at Target, envied.

It was a tough sell to persuade Mrs. Robinson to move in.

“I flat out begged her,” the former first lady wrote in her book, “The Light We Carry,” about convincing her mother that she needed to leave the South Side. “I’d enlisted Craig [Mrs. Robinson’s son and Michelle Obama’s brother] to further twist her arm. My mother was the rock of our family. She steadied us all. Since the time our daughters were babies, she’d help us out around the edges of our regular childcare arrangements.”

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, Marian Robinson

President Barack Obama (from left), his daughters Sasha and Malia, first lady Michelle Obama and Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the National Mall in Washington in 2011.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Mrs. Robinson was born July 29, 1937, one of seven children growing up in segregated Chicago. Her parents separated when she was a teen.

Her mother, Rebecca Jumper, was a nursing aide. Her father, the jazz-loving Purnell Shields, nicknamed “Southside,” could not, because he was Black, join a union or get a construction job. Her father woke the family “by blasting jazz records,” teaching her, the family said in a statement, “that even in the face of hardship, there was music to be found.”

Mrs. Robinson became a secretary, studying as a young woman to be a teacher. From the cramped apartment on Euclid, she taught her children to read at an early age, setting them on a course that led for both to Princeton University.

During her White House years, Mrs. Robinson lived on the third floor, and her daughter, on especially fraught days, would go up a flight to find comfort with her mom.

While living at the White House, she would often accompany Malia and Sasha to school.

Barack Obama has often told the story of how he sat next to his mother-in-law on a couch on Election Night 2008 in Chicago, watching the returns on television, and he grabbed her hand when he was projected to win the White House.

Then Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama (center) and his wife Michelle and her mother Marian Robinson sit on a couch watching election returns in Chicago in 2008 with daughters Sasha (front left) and Malia.

Then Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama (center) and his wife Michelle and her mother Marian Robinson sit on a couch watching election returns in Chicago in 2008 with daughters Sasha (front left) and Malia.

David Katz/AFP/Getty Images

“As someone who grew up in deeply segregated Chicago ... there were always barriers,” Barack Obama recalled in an interview.

With Obama’s election as the nation’s first Black president — and Mrs. Robinson’s daughter to be first lady —"seeing it through her eyes, I think, made it a little more special.”

President Biden, first lady Jill send condolences

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill got to know Mrs. Robinson when Biden was tapped to be Barack Obama’s vice president.

The first couple said in a statement on Saturday, “We knew Mrs. Marian Robinson as a devoted mother and grandmother with a fierce and unconditional love of her family. With the blessing of friendship, we felt that love ourselves — with every quiet smile or warm embrace she shared with us.

“She believed, like we do, that family is the beginning, middle and end. She moved into the White House to be there for her family when they needed her the most, and in so doing, she served her country right alongside them. Her life is a reminder that we are a great nation because we are a good people.”

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, and their grandmother Marian Robinson, wave from the Truman Balcony at the start of the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington in 2009.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama with daughters Malia and Sasha and their grandmother Marian Robinson, wave from the Truman Balcony at the start of the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House in Washington in 2009.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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