As we begin Black History Month, Google is celebrating the revered American abolitionist, orator and author Frederick Douglass with a doodle created by guest artist Richie Pope.
Pope’s image was inspired by Douglass’s work as the publisher of “The North Star” newspaper. Limited to only Google’s US home page, the logo links to a search for “Frederick Douglass.”
Beneath the Frederick Douglass logo, Google has included a link to “Explore the life and work of Frederick Douglass,” which leads to the Google Cultural Institute Black History and Culture website.
For a biographical sketch of Douglass, Google turned to Sandra Trenholm, curator and director of the Gilder Lehman Institute. According Trenholm, Douglass learned at age eight that education was a direct path to freedom, after being taught the alphabet by his owner, Sophia Auld.
“The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible aloud… awakened my curiosity in respect to this mystery of reading, and roused in me a desire to learn,” writes Douglass in his autobiography.
Born Frederick Bailey, Douglass changed his name to Frederick Douglass in 1838 when he escaped slavery. By 1845, he had published his first autobiography, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave.” Through his anti-slavery speeches and writings, he rose to become one of America’s most famous abolitionists.
During his lifetime, Douglass published three autobiographies, founded five newspapers and served as the US Consul to General to Haiti.
Google shared the following early sketches of Pope’s doodle, featuring Douglass with one of his newspapers as a backdrop, and among his many books:
Even as one of the most esteemed and important American historical figures, Trenholm says Douglass spent his life not knowing the date or year of his birthday.
“The principal thing I desired in making the inquiries I have of you was to get some idea of my exact age,” wrote Douglass to the son of one of his former owners in 1877. “I have always been troubled by the thought of having no birth day.”
Douglass died a year after sending that letter, not knowing when he was born. Later, historians would learn from a plantation slave record that Douglass’s birth occurred in 1818, but an exact date was left unknown.
To celebrate Douglass, Google is offering a free download of “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave” via Google Play today through its partnership with Open Road Integrated Media.
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