American artist, author, educator, and Civil Rights Activist Faith Ringgold has been inspiring children and adults alike by giving a voice to the female African-American experience through her art and actions.
Born Faith Willa Jones, in 1930. Ringgold grew up in the heart of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance where music, art, and inspiration surrounded her. Times were hard, it was The Great Depression. But the Black community pulled together and shared what they had; rich culture, amazing talent, resiliency, and each other. This was Ringgold’s foundation.
When Ringgold graduated from high school in 1948 and headed to City College of New York to study art, she was stunned when they said she couldn’t attend because it was a program for men only. Armed with her iron will and a dream, she worked out a compromise with the school; Ringgold would minor in art education at the college’s teaching program (where women were accepted), and get her degree in art. She faced trials because she was a woman and because she was black. But discrimination, harassment, and sexism didn’t stop her.
Like most artists, Ringgold’s art has been a journey, she has created works in many mediums over the years. Some of her most notable works are narrative quilts telling Ringgold’s side of the story, “Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?” (1983) is a powerful example. Breaking into the art world is difficult for women, and even more difficult for women of color. But Ringgold has made her voice heard and her work visible. She has written many children’s books featuring her art, including our favorite “Tar Beach”. And she has found her way into galleries and museums around the world.
Along with being one of the first black political and feminist artists, Ringgold became one of the first women to organize and advocate for the inclusion of African-American women in galleries and museums starting in the ’60s. She has founded and co-founded many arts organizations that focus on breaking down barriers in the art world faced by women of color, creating many opportunities for those artists.
Ringgold has received many honors, including a National Endowment for the Arts Award, an NAACP Image Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship for painting. Faith Ringgold is a living treasure. She made history with her art, her advocacy and her voice. Let’s hold her up and celebrate Her Story.
“I have always wanted to tell my story – or, more to the point, my side of the story.
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