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Adairsville • Cassville • Cartersville • Euharlee •
Kingston • Lake Allatoona • Summer Hill

74 Johnson Street | Kingston, Georgia 30145

Melvinia “Mattie” Shields McGruder Gravesite at Queen Chapel Church

Born into slavery in 1844, on a large South Carolina plantation, Melvinia was bequeathed, at age 6, to Henry Shields, of Rex, Georgia. Henry’s wife was the daughter of the plantation’s owners, so they sent three enslaved people to Georgia to work for the couple. As one of these people, Melvinia spent most of her time working inside the Shields’ house, much as she had done in South Carolina. In that position she was required to provide care for her elderly owners, a role she also took on with Henry’s son, Charles, 12, who was crippled and unable to work the farm with his brothers. At age 16, Melvinia gave birth to a son, Dolphus Shields, fathered by Charles, then a teacher by trade. She and her children took on the surname Shields, and lived alongside Charles and his family. A decade after the end of the Civil War, Melvinia moved away with her family, to Kingston, Georgia, where she spent the remainder of her life as a midwife. In Kingston, residents knew her fondly as “Mattie” McGruder. She had four children, three of whom were listed as mulatto/mixed race.

Dolphus Shields could read and write, a rarity among the African American community at the time, and was skilled in carpentry. He moved first to Kingston with his mother, then married and moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he became a successful businessman and leader in the church community. Later, Dolphus’ descendants settled in Chicago, where his great-great-granddaughter, Michelle Robinson, was born. Michelle married Barack Obama, who was elected President of the United States in 2008, serving two terms in office.

A marker is placed in honor of Melvinia Shields at Queen Chapel Methodist Church Cemetery, where she was laid to rest in 1938. This incredible story was researched and reported by Megan Smolenyak for the New York Times article of October 8, 2009 and for her book, American Tapestry, The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama, upon discovering through genealogical research and genetic testing that her roots were tied to both slaves and white slave owners in the Deep South, said, “An important message in this…is that we are all linked.” (Thanks to Nellie Margaret Harris Applin, Historian.)

More information on African American history can be found at the Kingston Women’s History Museum, open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. For more information, contact Kingston City Hall (770 -336-5905.

Source: “Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Product
Development Resource Team Report, 2017”



African American

Heritage Trail

Bartow County, Ga

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