Why This Artist's Google Doodle Is So Important

Your go-to search engine has a tradition of marking February 1, the first day of Black History Month, with a Google Doodle honoring an important Black figure. Last year it paid tribute to Frederick Douglass; in 2015, it commemorated Langston Hughes' birthday, and in 2014, it celebrated Harriet Tubman.

This year's Google Doodle honoree is less well-known, which makes it even more vital that people know her name. Please draw your attention to Edmonia Lewis, the first woman of African American and Native American heritage to become an internationally acclaimed sculptor.
Illustrator Sophie Diao's Doodle shows Lewis, who was born in 1844, hard at work on a marble masterpiece. The piece featured is The Death of Cleopatra, her critically lauded work which is currently on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

A native of New York, Lewis — who once went by her Native American name, Wildfire — was an orphan by the age of nine and began her studies at Oberlin College at 15. During her time there, she was brutally attacked and accused of poisoning her friends. Though Lewis was later acquitted of the crime due to a lack of evidence, a cloud of suspicion loomed over her, and she was prevented from completing her studies.

Despite the lack of a formal degree, she went on to find great success — first in Boston, then in Rome — as a sculptor who drew on famous abolitionists for artistic inspiration. She also turned to her Native American and Afro-Haitian heritage, giving voice to cultural roots seldom celebrated at the time.

Though there is some dispute regarding the exact year of her death (some say 1907, others 1911), Lewis lived into her 60s.

"Decades later, Lewis’s legacy continues to thrive through her art and the path she helped forge for women and artists of color," a Google biography notes. "Today, we celebrate her and what she stands for — self-expression through art, even in the face of adversary."

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