March 4th: Miriam Makeba!

Google’s homepage today honors world music performer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba, making her the second woman honored with a U.S. Doodle this year and the seventh worldwide. Maybe this is a sign that the Doodles team are changing their ways: this year, so far, women are represented at a rate of 29% in U.S. Doodles and 25% globally. That’s a far cry from 50-50, but it’s also a far cry from the overall rate from 2001 until now, about 13%. I hope we see this trend continue and grow.

Miriam Makeba's Google Doodle, posted on March 4th, 2013.

Miriam Makeba’s Google Doodle, posted on March 4th, 2013.

Let’s learn more about Makeba, who is known both for her global career as a singer and for her anti-apartheid activism, which, in 1963, led to South Africa revoking her citizenship.

Miriam Makeba was born on this day in the year 1932, and was a well-known singer, popular throughout South Africa and beginning to tour in the United States, before her 30th birthday. While her performance star was rising, she was actively campaigning against apartheid, appearing in an anti-apartheid documentary and testifying before the United Nations. In retaliation for these activities, her passport was first suspended and then her citizenship entirely revoked. She discovered this when she was prevented from returning home for her mother’s funeral. It wasn’t until 1990 that Makeba was able to return to her home country again. During the intervening period, she traveled and performed extensively in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the United States, and earned the nickname “Mama Africa.” As a global celebrity and a performer on some of the world’s most famous stages, Makeba was able to spread her anti-apartheid message.

The video below captures Makeba performing her first and most well-known hit, “Pata Pata,” which was a Billboard Hot 100 hit in the United States a decade after it was first released in South Africa.

Makeba’s careers in social/political activism and world music performance earned her a slew of accolades in both fields. She was the winner of a Grammy Award for an album featuring herself alongside Harry Belafonte and was nominated for a slew of others, including Best World Music Album; Makeba was also honored with the Polar Music Prize. Makeba served as Guinea’s delegate to the United Nations, was a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, was the winner of the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize and the Otto Hahn Peace Medal, was granted honorary citizenship in ten countries, and is the subject of the documentary Mama Africa.

Miriam Makeba passed away in Italy, after performing in a benefit concert on November 9, 2008.

(In case Miriam Makeba brought you to Speaking Up today, you might also be interested in yesterday’s post, which highlights a set of incredible, Doodle-Worthy women — all of whom could have been on Google’s radar in February, but weren’t.)

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