Michelle Obama appeals to black voters at CBC Foundation gala

Directly appealing for people to not just vote, but also to register and encourage others to go to the polls, Mrs. Obama talked about the hard work that took place “between the marches” during the civil rights era. “There is nothing more powerful than ordinary citizens coming together for a just cause,” she said. And she gently pushed back on those who may be disappointed in President Barack Obama’s first term — those who she said tell their friends, “I voted the last time,” that African-Americans should look back to the sacrifices of the civil rights era, the “tireless, relentless work of making change.”

In a clear references to the fight against restrictive voting laws, including voter ID laws enacted in 33 states, Mrs. Obama said, “we cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots. We cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the voting booth.”

“This is the march of our time,” she said, calling on people to “make sure everyone you know is registered” to vote. “This is the sit-in of our day.”

“It’s not just about who wins or who loses, or who we voted for,” the first lady said. “It’s about who we are as citizens.”

The first lady closed her address by telling the story behind a now-famous photo of a young black boy touching the president’s hair. She said the boy’s father was a member of the White House staff, who visited the Oval Office with his wife and two young sons.

One of the boys said to the president, “I want to know if your hair feels like mine,” Mrs. Obama said. “And Barack said, ‘why don’t you touch it yourself and find out.'” As the president bent down, the first lady said, the little boy exclaimed “yes! It does feel the same!”

“Every couple of weeks the White House staff change the photos in that office,” the first lady said. “Except that one. So when you to think about change, think of that little boy touching the head of the first black president. … Think about the fact that the house my family has the privilege of living in, was built by slaves. ” And yet, she added, for the children who visit the White House, “that’s all they’ve ever known. They take it for granted that there can be a black president.

“And isn’t that the great American story?”

Follow Joy Reid on Twitte at @thereidreport