The Google Doodle (not pictured) for the first day of Black History Month in 2017 celebrates sculptor Edmonia Lewis. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Google honors famous African American female sculptor with doodle

Google's front page Wednesday is all about Edmonia Lewis, the first African-American woman to achieve international fame as a sculptor.

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The search engine, which sometimes uses its home page to honor prominent figures, is highlighting the pioneering artist to kick off Black History Month.

Born in 1844, the New York native was raised by her two maternal aunts after both of her parents died by the time she was 9. 

By age 15, she enrolled into Oberlin College in Ohio, one of the only universities at the time to admit women and people of color. There she began her studies in the arts, but her time on campus did not come without scandal. 

During her third year, she was accused of poisoning two classmates and was later beaten by anti-abolitionists as a result. The incident prevented her from completing her degree. She then moved to Boston to pursue her sculpting career. However, she had a hard time finding an instructor that would mentor her until she met Edward A. Brackett, whose clients included famous abolitionists.

Lewis soon became a local phenomenon for her work inspired by abolitionists and heroes of the Civil War. To capitalize on her success, she moved to Rome and continued her rise to fame. 

Abroad, Lewis created one of her most famous pieces, "The Death of Cleopatra," which is now housed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The same piece is illustrated in her Google Doodle.

In 1877, she was commissioned to work on a portrait for President Ulysses S. Grant.  

She died in 1907 at age 63.

Since her death, she has been recognized by several institutions, including the Michael Rosenfield Gallery, Howard University, Vassar University and now Google. 

Lewis’ animated doodle can be seen at the Google Doodles archive

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