Tribute to Faith Ringgold

“I don’t think you can create art out of anger; it has to come out of some form of understanding. You have to feel good about who you are and that you could do something to change things.” ~ Faith Ringgold

RG 86 Commemorative Poster – 75th Anniversary of the Women’s Bureau (NAID 325597766)

On April 12, 2024, Faith Ringgold passed away at the age of 93 in Englewood, New Jersey. She was a painter, author, performance artist, feminist, teacher, activist, mixed media sculptor, and developed an innovative technique for creating patchwork quilts that told the stories of Black life. Her artwork has been shown in many of the leading galleries and museums, including the Spectrum Gallery, the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the High Museum of Atlanta, and National Portrait Gallery. Ringgold also received the Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts awards, a Medal of Honor for Fine Arts from the National Arts Club, and twenty-three honorary doctorate of fine arts degrees.

Faith Ringgold lived on Edgecombe Ave in the Sugar Hill District for several years.
RG 79 West side of Edgecombe Ave, looking north to West 155 St. Seen are buildings, 371
Edgecombe to 409 Edgecombe in the distance (with sidewalk canopy). [NAID 75319973]

Faith Willi Jones was born on October 8, 1930, in Harlem, New York to Andrew Louis and Willi Posey Jones. She grew up surrounded by creativity. Her parents encouraged her to explore various artforms and one of her childhood friends was Sonny Rollins, who would become a legendary jazz saxophonist. Ringgold studied visual art at City College in New York City, earning both Bachelor and Masters degrees. She taught art in the New York City Public City Schools and protested against the exclusion of Black artists in preeminent museums during the 1970s. This activism spirit led Ringgold to spend the remainder of her life fighting for African American and women’s rights. She married her second husband, Burdette Ringgold, in 1962, and decided to use his surname professionally.

Ringgold made her first quilt, Echoes of Harlem, in 1980, with her mother, who was a fashion designer. Other quilts created by Ringgold are Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? (1983); Street Story (1985); Change 3: Faith Ringgold’s Over 100 Pound Weight Loss Performance Story (1991); and Jo Baker’s Bananas (1997). A select few of her other notable series of art, which include a mix of her paintings, tankas, soft sculptures, and political posters are American People Series (1963); The American People Series (1967); Black Light Series (1969); Woman Free Yourself (1971); and Windows of the Wedding (1974). Ringgold also published several children’s books. The book Tar Beach, published in 1991, won several awards and she also turned it into a quilt. Other books by Ringgold are Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky (1992), My Dream of Martin Luther King (1996), and If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks (1999).

The National Archives and the Presidential Libraries hold several documents, photographs, moving images, and sound recordings relating to Faith Ringgold. Most of these items relate to her work as an artist and activist. RG 79 New York SP Sugar Hill Historic District (NAID 75319973) has the nomination form to have the 414 row houses and apartment buildings of the Sugar Hill District in West Harlem, New York added to the National Register of Historic Places. Included in this application is the 363 Edgecombe Avenue home of Faith Ringgold and her mother and also, the 365 Edgecombe Avenue home where Ringgold later lived. Other items held at the National Archives include RG 86 Commemorative Poster – 75th Anniversary of the Women’s Bureau (NAID 325597766), RG 517 Faith Ringgold, 1995 (NAID 77172167), and RG 517 Faith Ringgold “African Influence in American Art” (NAID 312189213).

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