Google kicked off Black History Month by highlighting the life and work of iconic black artist Edmonia Lewis in its latest doodle. Lewis is credited with being the first woman of African-American and Native-American descent to rise to worldwide prominence for her fine arts sculpting.
Lewis was born in 1844 in New York and attended Oberlin College. After graduating, she relocated to Boston and began her art career which was aided by press coverage from abolitionist periodicals. Throughout her career, Lewis remained dedicated to portraying art relating to her heritage. Abolitionists backed her work, who she grew ties with. Later in life, Lewis relocated to Rome, where her art began to garner international acclaim. The definitive marker of Lewis’s talent and acclaim came in 1877 when Ulysses S. Grant commissioned her to do his portrait after his presidential term.
In Wednesday’s Google Doodle, Lewis is depicted hard at work on The Death of Cleopatra, her most well-known work. The sculpture is now housed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Under the doodle, Google has also provided a link to more information about Lewis’s life.
Lewis has also been recognized for several of her other projects, such as the Bust of Dr. Dio Lewis, which she completed in Rome during her exploration of the neoclassical style of sculpting. Also while she was in Rome, Lewis became noted for completing her works herself, without hired help from stone carvers, whose help it was customary for sculptors to receive on larger projects.
Forever Free, one of Lewis’s more popular projects, is a celebration of the American Civil War’s end and the abolition of slavery. There is a woman beside the man in the sculpture who is fully dressed, which is notable because, at the time, African-American women were often depicted immodestly in other works of art.
The doodle of Lewis comes just days after Google recognized civil rights icon Fred Korematsu on its home page.
At this rate, it’s likely Google will continue celebrating lesser-known artists and activists throughout the month. It could be good to see some doodle likenesses of individuals such as James Baldwin, author of powerful social critiques like The Fire Next Time, and Claudette Colvin, who, at 15 years old, was pulled off a bus and arrested for refusing to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks staged her more well-known protest.