Google flagged this small sketch of a Confederate soldier by the artist Winslow Homer as “dangerous or derogatory content.” 
Google flagged this small sketch of a Confederate soldier by the artist Winslow Homer as “dangerous or derogatory content.” 

Why Did Google Ban Winslow Homer?

The artist's sketches of Confederate soldiers aren't “dangerous or derogatory content"—they're historical evidence.

Claudia Strauss-Schulson has been running Schulson Autographs, which sells historical documents like letters signed by presidents or a doodle by Marlon Brando, for around 15 years. Strauss-Schulson, speaking to me from Millburn, New Jersey, tells me she was “flabbergasted” when she got an alert that Google—her site is optimized for the search engine, meaning would-be buyers are shown her products in their results—had flagged a small sketch of a Confederate soldier by the artist Winslow Homer as “dangerous or derogatory content.” 

The alert advised: “Update your products to ensure a safe and positive experience for customers,” and went on, “Products that display shocking content or promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence are not allowed.” The note said the breach meant the sketch would be prevented from showing “in all countries,” though the work is still searchable via third parties, like the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America

Strauss-Schulson thinks the small sketch, which reads, “Winslow Homer, New York, March 4, 1869,” was flagged, possibly by a bot, because she labeled it “Winslow Homer Sketch of a Confederate Soldier Signed.” She has not updated her original listing and notes that the sketch is hardly hardcore Confederacy-worshipping propaganda, and far from the most shocking thing for sale online. There isn’t even a Confederate flag in the image. 

“To me it looks like a universal soldier who’s looking right at you about the horrors and sadness of war,” says Strauss-Schulson. 

Strauss-Schulson has a collection of Homer sketches and drawings that she’s acquired over the years. The nineteenth-century artist was born in Boston and is known for his landscape and maritime scenes. One of his most famous oil paintings, Prisoners from the Front, from 1866, likewise depicts Confederate soldiers captured by a Union general. Homer, at 25, was embedded with Union troops during the war, on assignment with Harper’s Weekly Illustrated. He’d send his drawings to the magazine’s New York office, where engravers translated his work from the field onto wood to be mass printed for the magazine’s 200,000 subscribers. 

“These are the documents upon which history gets written. This would be a beautiful thing to have in a high school textbook to illustrate the Civil War,” says Strauss-Schulson, who calls the entire episode “odd.” She adds, “I know what other people sell, and this doesn’t come close.”

Suzy Weiss is a reporter at The Free Press. Read her piece “Fun Is Back,” and follow her on X @SnoozyWeiss.

To support The Free Press, subscribe today:

Subscribe now

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines