Google Doodle Celebrates Canadian Civil Rights Icon Viola Desmond

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Google Doodle is celebrating the Canadian businesswoman and civil rights icon Viola Desmond, who would have turned 104 Thursday.

Google’s ten panel slideshow tells the story of how Desmond, a black beautician from Halifax, Nova Scotia, was dragged from a theater in 1946 after refusing to leave a seat in a section reserved for white people. She spent the night in jail, and then fought her conviction in court, helping to galvanize Canada’s civil rights movement.

Although there were no Jim Crow laws in Canada, segregation was still practiced informally and New Glasgow’s Roseland Theatre expected black patrons to sit on a separate balcony, according to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

Desmond’s flouting of racist rules preceded Rosa Parks’ 1955 refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, by nine years.

Desmond is also remembered as a community-spirited entrepreneur. She identified the lack of cosmetics available for black women and developed her own line to address the need. Later, she opened a beauty school through which she mentored other black women in Canada.

In March, Desmond became the first Canadian-born woman to appear on a regularly circulating banknote — the $10 bill.


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