Faith Ringgold
African American artist



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Faith Ringgold
African American artist
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Date of Birth

October 08, 1930

Place of Birth

Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.

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“How dare you tell artists what they can do? That’s the beginning of some really bad funk—bad, bad, bad.”

Faith Ringgold’s art and activism helped push American culture through some major growing pains. She saw the rise of the Civil Rights and women’s liberation movements, and tirelessly confronted racial and gender inequality in the art world and beyond.

Ringgold’s work wasn’t political from the start. As a young black woman beginning her career in the mid 20th century, you can imagine that she faced some major hurdles on her way to success. Beyond restrictions on which colleges she could attend, finding gallery representation seemed a near impossible feat. She and her second husband (who carried her paintings for her) would bounce from appointment to appointment with prospective gallerists, hoping to get a lucky break, but getting nowhere.

In one meeting, an art dealer implied the irrelevance of the floral still life paintings Ringgold had brought to show. At first affronted, Ringgold eventually understood that this gallerist had hoped to see more social commentary in her art, so she committed her work to the urgent political current of the early 1960s. Racism and sexism were now part of a national dialogue, and Ringgold was badass enough to outspokenly stand up for justice.

The opening of Ringgold’s first solo show in 1967 was a smashing success, but not for the faint of heart. One of the four hundred-something attendees took one look at a painting depicting a particularly gory race riot, let out a yelp and hopped straight back onto the elevator. Can’t say that her flowers would have evoked such a reaction.

Ringgold joined in protesting elitism in the art world by demanding better representation of women and artists of color at the 1970 Whitney Biennial. She and fellow protesters mischievously dissented by leaving eggs and sanitary products around the museum stamped with the the phrase “50% women.” Just to f*ck with people, the protesters also carried small whistles with them into the museum, which they would blow loudly in remote galleries and stairwells. Before alarmed museum personnel could rush to the scene, Ringgold and her pals would pocket the whistles and innocently wander away. Of course, mind games are an excellent way to fight the man.

Occasionally, Ringgold’s activism got her in trouble with the law. She was arrested at the opening of “The People’s Flag Show,” an exhibition she had helped to organize in support of artists and curators whose work “desecrated” the American flag in the name of free speech.



  1. “Faith Ringgold,” Accessed 12/28/16.
  2. Andrew Russeth. “The Storyteller: At 85, her star still rising, Faith Ringgold looks back on her life in art, activism, and education.” ArtNews, March 1st, 2016. Accessed 1/1/16.
  3. Andrew Russeth. “‘Freedom of Speech is Absolutely Imperative’: Faith Ringgold on her early art, activism at the Museum of Modern Art.” ArtNews, December 8th, 2016. Accessed 12/28/16.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold (born October 8, 1930 in Harlem, New York City) is an American painter, writer, mixed media sculptor and performance artist, best known for her narrative quilts.

Early life

Faith Ringgold was born the youngest of three children on October 8,1930, in Harlem Hospital, New York City. Her parents, Andrew Louis Jones and Willi Posey Jones, were descendants of working-class families displaced by the Great Migration. Ringgold's mother, a fashion designer, and her father, an avid storyteller, raised their daughter in an environment that encouraged her creativity. After the Harlem Renaissance, Ringgold's childhood home in Harlem became surrounded by a thriving arts scene – where figures such as Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes lived just around the corner. Her childhood friend, Sonny Rollins, who would grow up to be a prominent jazz musician, often visited her family and practiced saxophone at their parties. Because of her chronic asthma, Ringgold explored visual art as a major pastime through the support of her mother, often experimenting with crayons as a young girl. She also learned how to sew and work creatively with fabric from her mother. Ringgold maintains that despite her upbringing in Great Depression-era Harlem, 'this did not mean [she] was poor and oppressed' – she was 'protected from oppression and surrounded by a loving family. With all of these influences combined, Ringgold's future artwork was greatly affected by the people, poetry, and music she experienced in her childhood, as well as the racism, sexism, and segregation she dealt with in her everyday life.

In 1950, due to pressure from her family, Ringgold enrolled at the City College of New York to major in art, but was forced to major in art education instead, as City College only allowed women to be enrolled in certain majors. The same year, she also married a jazz pianist named Robert Earl Wallace and had two children, Michele and Barbara Faith Wallace. Ringgold and Wallace separated four years later due to his heroin addiction. In the meantime, she studied with artists Robert Gwathmey and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. She was also introduced to printmaker Robert Blackburn, with whom she would collaborate on a series of prints 30 years later.

In 1955, Ringgold received her bachelor's degree from City College and soon afterward taught in the New York City public school system. In 1959, She received her master's degree from City College and left with her mother and daughters on her first trip to Europe. While travelling abroad in Paris, Florence, and Rome, Ringgold visited many museums, including the Louvre. This museum in particular inspired her future series of quilt paintings known as the French Collection. This trip was abruptly cut short, however, due to the untimely death of her brother in 1961. Faith Ringgold, her mother, and her daughters all returned to the US for his funeral. She married Burdette Ringgold on May 19, 1962.

Ringgold visited West Africa twice: once in 1976 and again in 1977. These travels would deeply influence her mask making, doll painting and sculptures.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Faith Ringgold.