The first lady spoke Monday at a White House screening of Lifetime Television's film version of the play "The Trip to Bountiful." The movie stars Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams, Blair Underwood and Keke Palmer, who discussed the film after the viewing.
Mrs. Obama said the month is also about honoring African-Americans who have set an example.
"Those who moved us past ignorance with their wisdom and perseverance," she said. "Those who demanded more from the world around them, and those who reached for higher standards through their life's work, whether that's as a movie star like Ms.
Tyson won a best actress Tony Award for her performance in last year's Broadway revival of "The Trip to Bountiful." Mrs. Obama and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, saw the show last August.
"Ms. Tyson's story is about so much more than honors and accolades," the first lady told the audience. "It's really about character and determination. It's about breaking barriers—not just for herself, but for all of us who are blessed by her legacy."
Mrs. Obama praised Tyson for turning down multiple offers to play a prostitute and instead going on to portray "strong, resilient women" like abolitionist Harriet Tubman and the mother of Kunta Kinte in the TV miniseries "Roots.
"The Trip to Bountiful" debuts on Lifetime on March 8. The 1985 film version of Horton Foote's play won a best actress Oscar for Geraldine Page.