Our Story

Chicago: Where it Began

Barack and Michelle Obama's lives and careers grew out of deep Windy City roots.

From Michelle (Robinson) Obama’s childhood in the South Shore community through Barack Obama’s years of teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, and their historic 2008 election night celebration in Grant Park, The Barack Obama Foundation story starts in Chicago.

Election Night 2008 in Grant Park

President-Elect Barack Obama's victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago on November 4, 2008.

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January 17, 1964

Raised on the South Side

Mrs. Obama, then Michelle Robinson, grew up in a two-story house on Euclid Avenue in Chicago’s South Shore community, and attended elementary school down the street. Her father, Fraser, was a city pump operator and a Democratic precinct captain. Her mother, Marian, was a secretary at the Spiegel catalog, who later stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother, Craig.

Left photo: A young Michelle Obama (née Robinson) with her brother Craig; Right photo: Barack and Michelle Obama with their daughters, Sasha and Malia.

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1985-1988

Organizing in Roseland

The years (1985-1988) President Obama spent working as a community organizer on the South Side were “the best education I ever had,” he recalls. As the executive director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP) in the Roseland neighborhood, Obama helped set up a job training program, a college-prep tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization in the Altgeld Gardens housing projects.

Barack Obama, pictured in 1987; the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, via Google Maps.

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July 1, 1989

Michelle and Barack’s First Date

In 1989, President Obama took a summer internship at a top Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin, where a young associate named Michelle Robinson was assigned to be his adviser and show him around. He remembers, “I asked her out. She refused. I kept asking. She kept refusing. Finally, I offered to quit my job, and at last she relented.”

President Barack Obama whispers into First Lady Michelle Obama’s ear during the White House Cinco de Mayo celebration May 4, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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August 1, 1992

The Academic Life: The University of Chicago

Barack Obama taught on the University of Chicago Law School faculty for 12 years until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Michelle Obama provided leadership in several senior administrative roles at the University and its medical center.

Barack Obama teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

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October 3, 1992

A Promise: The Wedding of Barack and Michelle

In October 3, 1992 Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated their wedding day at the South Shore Cultural Center. Of President Obama’s vows on that day, Mrs. Obama remembers: “Barack didn’t pledge riches, only a life that would be interesting. On that promise he delivered.

Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day

Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day.

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November 3, 1992

Turning Out the Vote on the South Side

1992 was an election year, and Barack Obama became the director of Illinois Project Vote!, an organization focused on registering minority voters. That year, a huge turnout among African Americans forever altered Chicago’s electoral landscape, and a 31-year-old lawyer became a rising political star.

Barack Obama in 1992 back in Chicago, where he ran a voter registration drive.

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November 5, 1996

A Seat in the State Senate

The State of Illinois elected Barack Obama to the Illinois State Senate in November 1996. He became a leading legislator on a wide range of issues, passing nearly 300 bills aimed at helping children, the elderly, labor unions, and the poor.

Senator Obama in New Hampshire, April 2007. (Tim Llewellyn/Obama for America)

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July 27, 2004

Barack Obama’s Speech at 2004 DNC Convention

“I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.”

Then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, 2004
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January 1, 2008

The 2008 Campaign: Yes We Can

Senator Barack Obama, stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois on February 10, 2007 and declared his candidacy for President of the United States. Next to him on that day were his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia. He told listeners that day, “… this campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us — it must be about what we can do together.

President Candidacy Announcement, Springfield, IL, February 10, 2007. (Obama for America)

Left photo: Barack and Michelle Obama, Pueblo, CO, November 1, 2008 (Obama for America).

Middle photo: Austin Rally, Austin, TX, February 23, 2007 (Mike Nicholson/Obama for America)

Right photo: Democratic Presidential Nominee, Senator Barack Obama speaks in front of the Ohio State Capitol on Sunday, November, 2, 2008. (David Katz/Obama for America)

A Dollar for Every Year
Roosevelt Jackson, the oldest living member of the Negro Leagues at 98 years old, tells his granddaughter Loretta Jackson Brown about growing up in Georgia and waiting his whole life to help elect a black president.
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“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.”

President-Elect Barack Obama, November 2008
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November 4, 2008

An Historic Night in Grant Park

On November 4, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama gave a victory speech to remember at Grant Park before an estimated crowd of 240,000.

Election Night 2008 in Grant Park
President-Elect Barack Obama's victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago on November 4, 2008.
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Democratic Presidential Nominee, Barack Obama and his family on election night in Chicago, IL on Wednesday, November 5, 2008. (David Katz/Obama for America)

“This is the highlight in Chicago’s history to have the first African American president hail from Chicago and have a president from Chicago. It’s the first time since John F. Kennedy that a president comes from an urban community like ours. That’s a long way. We don’t have to educate him about all the urban problems. He knows them all first hand.”

Mayor Richard Daley, November 2008
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January 1, 2012

The 2012 Campaign: Forward

“Tonight in the election, you the American people reminded us that while our road has been hard, while or journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.”

President Barack Obama, November 2012
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