Dear Michelle, Letters

Dear Michelle, Letters


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Millions of Americans have shared their well-wishes and congratulations with President-elect

and Mrs. Obama.  The Uncrowned Queens Institute is requesting letters from women

in our community as an expression of our support for the First Lady.



Go, Tell MichelleAfrican American Women Write to the New First Lady

Edited Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram

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Go, Tell Michelle Book Review

By Kam Williams

This extraordinary collection of letters to Michelle Obama says a great deal about the lives, the hopes, prayers, fears, and aspirations of African-American women today… We seem to recognize her as one of our own. We are simultaneously proud of her, seek to protect her, and to encourage her. And our expectations for her are obviously very high…

So far, Michelle Obama is serving to help us see ourselves at our best. We see validation of our choices and our values. Even the decision to have her mother accompany the family to the White House resonates with many African-American women who have lived in three-generation homes and know the burden of having a working mother.

The women who have written letters in this collection hail from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and are highly accomplished. So, too, is the recipient. In Michelle Obama, we see reflected the face of inclusion, the face of America as the proverbial land of opportunity, equality and justice. Excerpted from the Foreword by Dr. Muriel A. Howard, President of Buffalo State College

Over the course of the presidential campaign, Michelle Obama was even more of a target than her husband. Whether being quoted out of context as unpatriotic, lampooned on the cover of a national magazine as a machine gun-toting terrorist, having her college thesis combed for grammatical errors or being the subject of a variety of unsubstantiated rumors, her desperate enemies futilely predicted that she would be the cause of her husband’s undoing.

Underreported by the mainstream media was the reaction of black women to this mistreatment of Michelle. “We were incensed when she was accused of being un-American,” admit Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, co-editors of Go, Tell Michelle. To them, the New Yorker cartoon was the final straw. “Black women everywhere felt the sting of indignation, decried this caricature, and rushed to embrace this and defend this beautiful, graceful, intelligent woman.”

And in the wake of the election, they immediately started soliciting other African-American females, “Uncrowned Queens,” for open letters of support for the incoming First Lady as a way “to send her a special message, grounded in our common ancestry and in the belief that our daughters have not only been inspired by her accomplishments but empowered by her example.”

The upshot of those efforts is a quite evocative collage of heartfelt correspondence in poetry and prose ranging from the intimate to the light and lyrical. Among the hundred contributors are not only professors and professional writers but accomplished women from all over the U.S., Africa and the Caribbean, and representing virtually every walk of life, including teachers, students, a psychiatrist, a nurse, a violinist, a vocalist, an entrepreneur, a dancer, a genealogist, a social worker, a consultant and a country club president, to name a few.

I was particularly moved by the simplicity of the entry by Shirley Hanshaw of Mississippi who shares her favorite recipe for Pecan Pie. “I know that you and Barack are not Southern,” she starts, “nevertheless, I thought you might enjoy this dessert. It is always a hit wherever I take it.” Shirley goes on to let Michelle know that “I have been praying for the safety of your husband and your entire family ever since his candidacy [and] I will continue to pray that God will surround all of you with a hedge of protection.”

An impressive compendium of eloquent messages which together paint a touching tapestry reflecting the depth of sisters’ emotional investment in our new First Lady.

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Dear Michelle Obama….

A Preview by Christine Vidal

of “Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women’s Letters to the New First Lady

 Edited by Barbara Seals Nevergold  and Peggy Brooks-Bertram


December 18, 2008

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The voices of women whose stories are rarely told have been gathered by two scholars at the University at Buffalo to offer Michelle Obama messages of love, hope, admiration and support as she becomes the United States’ first African American First Lady.

The women’s words are being compiled into a book, “Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women’s Letters to the New First Lady,” by Barbara Seals Nevergold, Ph.D., and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr.P.H., Ph.D., UB senior educational specialists and co-founders of the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women at UB.

The book will be published in January 2009 by SUNY Press/Excelsior Editions (Albany, N.Y.). The goal is to have the book in Michelle Obama’s hands by Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009.

The project had its genesis, Nevergold explains, in the 2008 presidential campaign as she watched President-elect Barack Obama’s journey to the White House gather momentum and his wife, Michelle, come into her own as a presidential candidate’s wife.

“Throughout the election, it became apparent that African Americans were becoming emotionally invested,” she says. “I felt such a sisterhood with Michelle Obama and a kinship.

“At the end of the election, I started to think, how can we as African-American women share with her our feelings about the new role she’s going to take?”

A week after the election, Nevergold and Brooks-Bertram used the Internet to send out a call for people to express their hopes and advice for Michelle Obama through letters, poetry and recipes. Starting with an Uncrowned Queens listserv they maintain, their request spread across the country and around the world.

“We were interested in ordinary women who’ve fallen into historical obscurity and who have never imagined themselves writing a letter like this to the next First Lady,” says Brooks-Bertram.

The response was enormous. Hundreds and hundreds of letters poured in, from professors and poets, playwrights and religious leaders, musicians, retirees and ordinary women. Eighth-grade students from Buffalo Prep sent letters. Residents of Kenya, Cameroon, Liberia and countries in the Caribbean sent letters. African Americans from around the country as well as Native Americans sent letters.

The messages were as diverse as the senders, but overwhelmingly the sentiments were of love and the desire to let Michelle Obama know she is not alone in her trip to the White House.

“There were so many messages that said ‘we never thought we’d live to see the day that a black man was elected president,’” says Nevergold. “Many letters said their ancestors were smiling down on this event.”

While only 100 letters will be published as part of “Go, Tell Michelle,” Nevergold says all the letters they receive will be included in an online digital repository available at the Uncrowned Queens site. Nevergold and Brooke-Bertram call the book an “excellent example of digital literacy.”

“Technology is the way to reach people,” says Brooks-Bertram. “Every letter we received came via email, with the exception of one or two.”

And the letters continue to pour in.

As an acclaimed international publisher of distinguished research and notable works of general interest since 1966, SUNY Press and its Center for Scholarly Communication are proud to support the State University of New York’s commitments to teaching, research, and public service. Through its Excelsior Editions imprint, SUNY Press makes available exceptional works for all readers and also showcases the diversity and abiding energy of the peoples, histories, and natural beauty of New York and the surrounding regions.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Source: University of Buffalo  / AfricanPressInternational

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Go, Tell MichelleAfrican American Women Write to the New First Lady

Edited Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram

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Request for Letters, Poems, and Recipes


Dear Michelle

  Messages of Encouragement, Support and Love to our new First Lady

Edited by The Uncrowned Queens


On January 20, 2009, Michelle Obama will become the First Lady of the United States.  She follows in the footsteps of 43 other women, most recently Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush, who have held this prestigious position before her.  However, at the same time Michelle Obama will also make a new path as she becomes the first African American First Lady.  Throughout the nearly two-year presidential campaign of her husband, President-elect Barack Obama, Michelle Obama has demonstrated her intelligence, grace under fire, tenacity, perseverance and indefatigable spirit. 

As a wife, she has supported her husband through the worst of times and the best of times.  In his own words, she is his “best friend, love of my life and rock of our family.”  As a mother, she has made it clear that her first priority remains the well-being of her two young daughters.  As a daughter, she has shared stories of her close knit family, giving us a glimpse into the environment that nurtured her own development.  Although her father is not alive to share in the historic and transformative events leading to the new role she will undertake, in the true tradition of the extended African American family, her mother is moving with her to the White House.  What an extraordinary tribute to the legacy communicated by the proverbial saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. 

Many of us have followed and participated, in some way, in this historic election process from its inception.  Our emotions have run the gamut from distrust and disbelief to belief, from despair to hope, from anger to elation and pride.  In President-elect Barack Obama and First Lady-elect, Michelle Obama, we have an opportunity in which our hope is revived, our faith is renewed and our spirits are rejuvenated.  

Millions of Americans have shared their well-wishes and congratulations with President-elect and Mrs. Obama.  The Uncrowned Queens Institute ( is requesting letters from women in our community as an expression of our support for the First Lady.  As African American women we want to send her a special message, grounded in our common ancestry and in the belief that our daughters have not only been inspired by her accomplishment but empowered by her example.  Letters to Michelle will include messages that will encourage, support and can take the form of a letter or a poem.  The Uncrowned Queens Institute will compile submissions into a publication, which we plan to have ready by the Inauguration.

We invite you to join us in this exciting endeavor, which in itself is an opportunity to participate in this historic moment in time.  Submissions should be between 350 -700 words (The Institute reserves the right to edit submissions), send copy to by December 1st.   Completion of a consent form, which will be sent to contributor and must be signed and returned before submission is accepted for publication.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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posted 16 November 2008



Home  Uncrowned Queens Project Table  Obama 2008 Table   Speeches and Sermons Table

Related files: Women Talking to Michele  Dear Michelle Letters  Obligation to Fight for the World as It Should Be   The Crossings  Wilson’s Obama Poem 

Why White America Perhaps Fears Michelle More Than Barack   Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady (book)

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