Juneteenth 2024 Google Doodle artist Christian Robinson is finding emancipation through art

In conversation with theGrio, illustrator and Meghan Markle collaborator Christian Robinson discusses the inspiration behind the 2024 Juneteenth Google Doodle and art as liberation.

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Image: Christian Robinson for Google

As Juneteenth celebrations kick off globally to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States post-Civil War, a timely piece of art will serve as a reminder for anyone who uses Google’s search engine.

Christian Robinson, an American illustrator and animator of children’s books, was tapped by Google as the 2024 guest artist to create its Juneteenth Doodle. Speaking with theGrio, Robinson discussed what inspired his design.

“If Juneteenth is about celebrating the freedom from slavery and all that oppression and pain, I thought, ‘What’s the opposite of that?’ And for me, it was play, joy and leisure,” he said. “So, that’s what I wanted to show. It’s just kids having a good time; the descendants of enslaved people living their best lives, you know?”

While this isn’t his first Google Doodle — or the first time he’s been on a global stage, having worked with Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, on her bestselling children’s book “The Bench”, Robinson emphasizes that this smaller piece of work has the same goal as other projects: to effect change and make a difference in people’s lives.

“For me, it is just about telling stories and creating images that I hope can be encouraging and empowering to make people feel seen and recognized and know that their experience matters,” he told theGrio.

When asked about the creative process for choosing the Doodle’s colors, Robinson noted the illustration’s red, yellow and green palette was inspired by the “African-American flag” and its association with”Afrocentric powerful colors.”

“[The] African-American Flag represents a celebration of liberty and remembrance of freedom denied,” noted Kevin Young, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In this year’s Juneteenth Doodle, kids can be seen jumping double-dutch, a sport that holds cultural significance for Black Americans to socialize, play and feel liberated.

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Many artists reveal aspects of themselves in their work. As for Robinson, he said, “Art has been my liberation and still continues to liberate me to this day.”

“It helps me work through things, it helps me make sense of things, it helps free me of things,” he added.

Having grown up in poverty, Robinson now leverages his experience and talent for good. He previously partnered with Target to remind children they matter through his product line and illustration in the book “The Last Stop on Market Street.”

Robinson told theGrio he is working on releasing a new picture book soon, but in the meantime, he’s reimagining his own story.

“So early on in my life, so much of what I wanted was shaped by just not having those basic needs met,” he said. “Those basic resources and fear of scarcity and so now, I’m in a place of actually having some sense of security.”

As Google’s users engage with Robinson’s artwork this Juneteenth, its impact extends beyond just inspiring others. It also signifies the illustrator’s own journey toward emancipation.

Eden Harris is an award-winning journalist from DC who enjoys writing about Africa and its many cultures. She worked as a national politics producer for Spectrum News and is a rising leader in foreign affairs and at the National Press Club.