The Story Behind The Artist Who Created The MLK Day Google Doodle

Today is Martin Luther King Day, when people all over the world celebrate the life and legacy of the famed minister and civil rights leader. To mark the occasion, Google changed its homepage with a new Doodle by artist Cannaday Chapman.

The artwork features a young girl sitting atop her father’s shoulders as they watch King, Jr.’s famed “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall. A group of faces surrounds the girl, each taking in the beauty and hope of his words.

“I felt very honored to have the opportunity to pay tribute to one of America’s bravest leaders,” said Chapman in a featured interview with Google. He mentions that he was busy when approached about the project, but felt he couldn’t pass it up.

The Google Doodle is especially poignant because it speaks to King, Jr.’s leadership, but also focuses on the people who followed his movement. We don’t see King, Jr.’s face in the artwork. This was by choice, Chapman explains. “I was inspired by people. It may appear that this movement or any civil rights movement was brought about by one person, but it’s the people that have the power to bring change. I wanted to make an image about those people.”

The art was one of several drafts that Chapman proposed to Google. Other sketches featured children drawing King, Jr.’s face in chalk on the ground, and a worker putting up a wheat paste poster of him on a street wall.

Dr. King was instrumental in the movement towards equality for African-Americans and the working class. As a nonviolent activist, he was imprisoned in 1963 for protesting Jim Crow laws in Birmingham, Alabama; from his jail cell, he wrote a letter that would become famous. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he wrote in the Letter From a Birmingham Jail, words that still deeply resonate today.

Chapman’s artwork reminds us that King, Jr.’s dream still lives on today, in the people who reject that status quo in order to achieve a more perfect union. “I would like people to remember that current events and our actions today will shape the future generations of tomorrow,” says Chapman. We remember that while a person can die, their legacy lives on, and gives us lessons to heed for our lifetime.

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