Remembering Faith Ringgold, Pioneering Black Quilt Artist and Author


April 16, 2024

Faith Ringgold, an artist best known for her quilts depicting the Black American experience, died on April 13 at her home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 93.

“Faith leaves behind an impactful legacy of activism and advocacy for diversity and inclusion that has left a lasting mark on the art world, inspiring countless others to use their voice as a tool for social change,” said Dorian Bergen, President of ACA Galleries, which had represented Ringgold for nearly three decades, in a statement provided to CNN. “We will miss her deeply, and remain committed to continuing this legacy by sharing her work, philosophies, and life with the world.”

Ringgold was born in 1930 in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance. She learned to quilt from her mother, Madame Willi Posey Jones, who made dresses. Jones worked with her daughter to create Ringgold’s first-ever narrative quilt, “Echoes of Harlem,” interweaving the beauty of the Black experience in the fabric, themes that would color Ringgold’s future artistic work.


Ringgold attended City College of New York, which, at the time, restricted women to specific majors, which kept Ringgold from studying art. However, she was able to reach an agreement with the administration allowing her to major in art on the condition that she also enroll in the School of Education, where women were allowed. Ringgold would earn her bachelor’s degree in 1955 and teach art in public schools.

Ringgold was an activist and part of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. Her artwork depicted the unrest of the Civil Rights Movement, with some of her paintings and quilts depicting violence and haunting imagery of the American system’s hypocrisy.

Ringgold was an activist in the streets as well as in the galleries. She marched for Black women’s representation in the arts. In 1970, she was arrested and charged with desecrating the American flag for co-organizing the “People’s Flag Show for artists’ First Amendment right to use the flag as material, an exhibition protesting against the Vietnam War.


She worked primarily in fabrics, as dust from materials like wood and metal triggered her severe asthma. She eventually began writing and illustrating children’s books, including Tar Beach. Based on one of her own story quilts, Tar Beach tells the story of a young girl imagining herself flying above the city. In the end, the girl tells her little brother that anyone can fly. “All you need,” Ringgold wrote, “is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way.”

Ringgold spent her life creating paintings, sculptures, performance art, and children’s stories. She used her work to document what was happening to Black Americans at the time and to express her own unique cultural identity, which continues to inspire artists to this day.

“I hope people will be inspired by my art and find the courage as I did to do whatever they feel moved to do,” Ringgold told Wallpaper magazine in 2022, “It takes courage to be free and express one’s own vision. Everyone is important and has a unique story to tell.”


Cover Photo: Faith Ringgold, Pioneering Black Quilt Artist and Author / Photo Credit: Wisconsin Public Radio

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