By: Tatiana G. King
On March 4, 2013, Google unveiled their newest Doodle starring African icon, Miriam Makeba. Makeba, who was born on March 4, 1932, was a Grammy Award-winning singer and civil rights activist from South Africa. She was also artfully known as “Mama Africa” and the “Empress of African Song”. Her record, “Pata Pata” became a major hit in the U.S. in 1967, peaking at #12 on the Billboard charts. She performed across various stages, including at the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in Zaire.
Not only was she a music legend, singing on a variety of albums and in concert with fellow artists such as Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, and Paul Simon; she was a huge proponent during the Civil Rights Movement. It’s noted that after she made her U.S. debut in 1959, she tried to return to South Africa in 1960, only to be denied entry as her passport was cancelled by the country, due to her involvement in the movement against racial segregation. It wasn’t until 1990, after the release of Nelson Mandela from Victor Verster Prison, she she was persuaded by him to return to South Africa, on her French passport. At one point in her life, she was famously married to Stokely Carmichael a Black Panther and leader of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Makeba was also the first Black woman to speak before the United Nations, a visit in which she testified against apartheid. She died from a heart attack in Italy on November 9, 2008
The Google Doodle itself is not only tasteful, but visually appealing; utilizing an African-styled mud cloth pattern with warm earthen colors, with a regal caricature. What I appreciate about Google’s Doodle is that they highlighted a Black influencer and are actively attempting to increase awareness of the life story of Miriam. More specifically, I believe this is the first time Google has ever highlighted a historic Black woman as a Doodle (Note: While Rosa Parks was featured as a Doodle back in 2010, the Doodle itself was more so about her legacy and did not depict her likeness). It is a rarity that Black women are featured in such high regard in the tech space–especially for a giant like Google. I can only hope this will be the start of more Doodles and inspire others in this space to feature more prominent (and other not-so-well-known) Black women.
Google’s Doodle’s reaches millions upon millions of people and helps stir avid curiosity to learn more about the person being featured. I know it did for me. Make sure to check out the video below to watch Miriam Makeba performing “Pata Pata” and “Click Song”.
(Music starts at 10 seconds)
Purchase Autobiography: “Makeba: My Story”