Art History Lab

Faith Ringgold: Art, Activism, and Intersectionality

Faith Ringgold: A Legacy of Art and Activism

Faith Ringgold is a celebrated American artist whose work has examined the intersection of race, politics, and gender in America. She is best known for her narrative quilts, which tell stories of struggle and hope from the African American perspective.

Her paintings, sculptures, and performance art have all contributed to a body of work that is both visually stunning and politically powerful.

Childhood in Harlem

Faith Ringgold was born in 1930 in Harlem, New York. Growing up in the 1930s was no easy feat for the young artist.

She faced racial discrimination, poverty, and limited opportunities. However, Ringgold was surrounded by a vibrant community of artists, activists, and intellectuals who inspired her to pursue her dreams.

Education and Early Career

Ringgold attended the City College of New York, where she studied art education. It was there that she began to explore her passion for painting and began making politically charged works that challenged the status quo.

After graduation, Ringgold worked as an art teacher for over a decade, but she never stopped creating art. Her paintings from this period often explored themes of racial injustice, violence, and inequality.

Marriage and Divorce

Ringgold married Robert Wallace, a jazz pianist, in 1962. However, their marriage was plagued by his heroin addiction.

The couple eventually divorced, and Ringgold raised their two daughters on her own. During this difficult time, art became an outlet for her pain and frustration.

She created powerful works like the Slave Rape Series, which depicted the trauma of enslaved Black women.

Art Career and Travels

Ringgold’s artistic career took off in the 1960s and 1970s when she began working on her American People Series. These paintings depict Americans of all races and backgrounds, highlighting the diversity and complexity of the American experience.

Ringgold’s success in the art world allowed her to travel extensively, visiting Europe and Africa and meeting other artists who were pushing the boundaries of what art could do. Focus on Quilting and Children’s Books

In the 1980s, Ringgold began to focus more on quilting and children’s books.

Her narrative quilts became world-renowned, telling stories of hope, struggle, and triumph from a uniquely Black perspective. Her most famous quilt, Tar Beach, tells the story of a young Black girl who dreams of flying over New York City.

The image became an iconic representation of the Black imagination and resilience. Ringgold’s children’s books, including Echoes of Harlem, continue to inspire young readers with their powerful messages of self-love and self-awareness.

Artistic Mediums

Ringgold has worked in many artistic mediums over the years, including paintings, quilts, sculptures, and performance art.


Ringgold’s paintings often center on themes of racial injustice, violence, and inequality. Her American People Series captures the diversity of the American experience while highlighting the ways that race shapes individual experiences.


Ringgold’s narrative quilts have become one of her most recognizable mediums. These works blend traditional quilting techniques with striking imagery and bold colors.

She has created numerous narrative quilts, including the Slave Rape Series and the Coming to Jones Road Series.


Ringgold’s Witch Mask Series features life-sized soft sculptures that challenge our ideas about gender and power. These works examine the ways that gender stereotypes limit our understanding of ourselves and each other.

Performance Art

Ringgold’s performance art explores themes of weight, race, and identity. Her Bitter Nest performance quilt examines the ways that weight is intertwined with self-worth, while her Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro performance highlights the ongoing struggle for racial justice in America.

Faith Ringgold’s legacy as an artist and activist is truly remarkable. Her work has inspired countless artists, activists, and dreamers to push beyond the boundaries of what is possible.

Her focus on the intersectionality of race, gender, and politics has made a lasting impact on the art world and beyond. As we continue to navigate the complex issues of our time, Ringgold’s work remains a shining beacon of hope and possibility.

Faith Ringgold’s Legacy: Activism and Art

Faith Ringgold’s contributions to the art world are indelible, but her formidable activism work cannot be overlooked. Her art has often been seen as a manifestation of her political beliefs.

Ringgold viewed art as a tool for change and used it to speak out against injustices that affected communities of color. From her involvement in feminist and anti-racist organizations to the founding of women’s art collectives, Ringgold made a significant impact in the fight against oppression.

Involvement in Feminist and Anti-Racist Organizations

Ringgold was one of the founding members of the Ad Hoc Women’s Art Committee, which was established in the 1960s to bring attention to the lack of representation of women in the art world. The organization staged numerous protests and exhibitions throughout New York City over the years, helping to open doors for women artists.

Ringgold was also involved in Women Artists in Revolution, a feminist art movement that sought to overthrow societal conceptions of women in the arts. At a time when women’s artwork was often dismissed as trivial or decorative, this movement sought to elevate women’s art and bring attention to the lived experiences of women.

Additionally, Ringgold was a member of the National Black Feminist Organization, which sought to combine feminism and Black liberation. The aim was to fight against the racism and sexism that affected Black women in America.

Ringgold’s involvement in all these organizations demonstrated that her activism was intersectional and involve all groups facing systemic oppression. Founding and Participation in Women’s Art Collectives

Ringgold went further than just being a part of feminist and anti-racist organizations.

She also founded the “Where We At” Black Women Artists collective in 1971. This was a pivotal moment in the fight for female representation in art, and the collective became a platform for Black women artists to express themselves and showcase their work.

The collective held exhibitions, events, and forums focused on empowering Black women in the art world. Ringgold also participated in the Coast-to-Coast National Women Artists of Color Projects.

This initiative, established by artist and activist Ana Mendieta, brought together women artists of color from across the United States to develop and showcase their artwork. The project played a significant role in breaking down barriers for women artists of color in the 1980s.

Importance of Her Art in Raising Awareness and Sparking Conversations

Ringgold’s artwork represents a powerful tool for mobilizing public awareness and sparking critical conversations on issues like racial injustices. She used her art as a form of protest, and her pieces often depicted the struggles and experiences of communities of color.

One notable example is the Die painting series, which Ringgold made in response to the murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis. She created six powerful pieces that represent the Black American victims of violence from the time of slavery to the present day.

The Die series serves as both a memorial and a call to action for the fight against systemic racism. Ringgold’s art continues to spark conversations and bring awareness to issues like racial injustice.

With the recent protests across the United States sparked by George Floyd’s murder and the “Black Lives Matter” movement, her art has become even more relevant and necessary.

Enduring Relevance of Her Work

Ringgold’s lifelong activism and art have made her work increasingly relevant in today’s world. Her battling against social injustice helped to bring about change to the art world, making it more inclusive for the marginalized.

Her art has always been a voice for marginalized communities in America, and its significance today continues to reverberate across society, politics, and culture. Furthermore, Ringgold’s focus on the intersectionality of race, gender, and politics has made her work not only relevant to the fight for equity, but an essential voice in political discourse.

Her legacy as a feminist, activist, and artist has cemented her position as an icon.

Continued Significance in the Wake of Recent Events

The recent protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder have highlighted the necessity for conversations about issues like systemic racism and police brutality in America. Ringgold’s art resonates with the current call to action for change and awareness.

It continues to assert the right of Black people to be heard and respected. In recent times, her impact can also be seen in discussions around representation in the art world.

Her struggle to get the recognition she deserves has led many people to question the continued exclusion of under-represented groups in the art world today. Ringgold’s activism and art have made it clear that it is time for more radical change.

Faith Ringgold’s activism and art have impacted America in countless ways. Through her life’s work, Ringgold has presented a vision of a future of equity and justice in America.

She has made strides in breaking down barriers and giving a voice to marginalized communities, perpetually pushing for social change through art. Her legacy is one that will keep resonating across different generations for years to come.

In summary, Faith Ringgold is a celebrated artist, feminist, and anti-racist activist who used her art to bring attention to issues of social injustice and create a platform where marginalized voices and perspectives could be heard. Her lifelong activism and art continue to inspire, motivate, and reverberate across society, politics, and culture.

Through her activism and art, Ringgold presented a vision of a future that is full of equity and justice. Ringgold is a true icon who has made radical change in her lifetime, and her legacy remains a powerful force that will inspire generations to come.

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