The Shields Brothers Gospel Singers

Vivian Liberto

[ Vivian Cash ]

“Finding Your Roots,” Ep. 6 is a great genealogy lesson for Perry and Dallas County where our Shields Family originates. Interesting surprises! Johnny Cash’s older daughter Rosanne was profiled.

This is a picture of Johnny Cash’s first wife Vivian Liberto (her mother) who was mixed and has direct ties to the Shields surname and our family history. (Great grandparent, a slave) The show aired on PBS.

... possible connections

Michelle Obama

Melvinia Shields

David Patterson was the owner of 21 slaves on a plantation in Spartanburg, South Carolina, when he died in 1852. In his will, he bequeathed one of his slaves, 6-year-old Melvinia (and any children she might bear) to his wife Ruth, and asked that his slave families “be kept together as far as possible.”

Ruth Patterson is believed to have died before Mr. Patterson. Melvinia’s new masters became Mr. Patterson’s daughter Christian, and her husband Henry W. Shields, who owned a 200-acre farm in Georgia. Melvinia became one of only three slaves on the Shields family farm.

Melvinia’s great-great-great-granddaughter would become America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama. The story of the black, white, and multiracial ancestors of Michelle Obama” that both serves to connect Kingston and tell the story of the family ties to Michelle Obama and the White House is still largely unknown. “American Tapestry” by author Rachel Swarns begins to explore the story, but still the story remains largely untold.

The Shields grew cotton, corn, and other staples. They had four sons, aged 19 to 24 when the war came. All served in the war. The oldest son, Charles served in the Georgia 8th Cavalry Regiment.

In 1860, at the dawn of the Civil War, Melvinia gave birth to her first child, Adolphus Theodore Shields (Dolphus – later known as D.T.), the father being the Shields’ oldest son Charles (according to DNA research). Melvinia remained with the Shields family through the Civil War. Melvinia was living on the farm near Jonesboro during the epic Battle of Jonesboro, August 31-September 1, 1864, that sealed the fate of Atlanta. The Shields’ farm was in audible distance of the fighting of this final battle of the Atlanta Campaign.

Henry Wells Shields, the owner of Mrs. Obama’s great-great-great grandmother, Melvinia Shields, is the elderly man with the beard. DNA testing and research point to Henry’s son, Charles Marion Shields, as the father of Melvinia’s son, Dolphus. That would make Charles Mrs. Obama’s great-great-great grandfather. Charles is the third man standing from the right. (Courtesy of Jarrod Shields, in honor of Melvin Shields)

In 1870, three of Melvinia’s four children, including Dolphus, were listed on the census as “mulatto.” One child was born four years after emancipation, which indicates that the relationship with Charles continued after slavery. Charles married after the war and had other children. Melvinia continued to work as a farm laborer on land adjacent to that of Charles Shields. Sometime in her thirties or forties, census records indicate that Melvinia moved from the Shields plantation in Rex to reunite with former slaves from her childhood on the Patterson estate in South Carolina. She settled with Mariah and Bolus Easley in Kingston. Melvinia’s son, Dolphus, married one of Easley’s daughters, Alice, First Lady Michelle Obama’s great-great-grandmother.

Melvinia next appears in the census living in Kingston, under her married name Mattie McGruder. Employed as a midwife, she shared a home with her adult children and four grandchildren. According to the late Miss Ruth Applin of Kingston, who not only knew Melvinia but married her grandson, Emory, “Mattie McGruder [was] a loving, spiritual woman seen often with her Bible and singing hymns.”

During the more than four decades that she lived in Kingston, Melvinia worked as a midwife, a job that made her a pillar of the black community. Melvinia aided in the birth of countless children as well as caring for her grandchildren and other relatives. Her son Dolphus moved to Birmingham, where he started a family and became a successful businessman. Eventually, his descendants settled in Chicago, where his great-great-granddaughter, Michelle Robinson, was born. Michelle later married Barack Obama, who in 2008 was elected president of the United States.





Dale Ricardo Shields is a 2017 winner of The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award®, 2017 and 2015 Tony® award nominee for the Excellence in Theatre Education Award, the 2017 AUDELCO/"VIV" Special Achievement Award, 2020, 2021, and 2022 ENCORE AWARD / The Actors Fund and winner of the 2022. Recently, he won the 2022 Legend Award from his alma mater Ohio University. He is the 2021 winner of the Paul Robeson Award, presented (jointly) by the Actors Equity Association and the Actors Equity Foundation.

Research Accomplishments:
His extensive professional credits as a Director, Stage manager, and Actor (Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and Regional) As an actor he has appeared on Saturday Night Live, Another World, Guiding Light, The Cosby Show, and the ITV television series "Special Needs" and commercials and film.

Professor Shields is a member of the Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the American Guild of Musical Artists performance unions and an associate member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

He began his artistic academic career in New York City at Playwrights Horizon, The South Bronx Action Theatre, and Mind Builders, and then was invited to join the teaching staff at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre (New York Shakespeare Festival). He represented the United States for Theatre Young Audiences at the ASSITEJ Theatre Festival in London, England.

He has taught and been a visiting artist at Ohio University, The College of Wooster, Denison University, Macalester College, Susquehanna University, and SUNY Potsdam.

He holds B.F.A and M.F.A, Degrees from Ohio University.

Website(s) [Research] [Career]