Faith Ringgold, Storytelling Quilt Artist, Dies at 93

The pioneering mixed-media artist stitched stories of the African-American experience into her innovative quilts.

Apr 14, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies



Faith Ringgold, an acclaimed American artist, author, and activist, died April 13, 2024, at her home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 93 years old. Across various artistic media—including painting, textiles, performance art, and children’s books—Ringgold combined fine art and craft techniques to tell stories about race, gender, class, and community for over half a century.


Ringgold is best remembered for crafting colorful story quilts, many of which recount her own experiences as a Black woman in the United States. As an activist, Ringgold also fought for the inclusion of Black artists—especially women and craftspeople—in major American art collections.


Who Was Faith Ringgold?

Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? by Faith Ringgold, 1983, via Studio Art Quilt Associates


Faith Ringgold was born in 1930 in Harlem, New York, amidst the cultural bustle of the Harlem Renaissance. Her childhood home was at the center of a thriving arts scene, with the likes of Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes frequenting her neighborhood. She was also taught to sew by her mother, a seamstress and fashion designer. From a young age, Ringgold was interested in pursuing art professionally but faced systemic barriers due to her race and gender.


Ringgold earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education—one of the few college majors to admit women at the time—and began her career in the New York City public education system. In the 1960s and 70s, Ringgold started painting in earnest, poignantly exploring political issues and elevating the everyday lives of African-American people in her work. Inspired by folk art and traditional craft, she often integrated unconventional materials like fabric and beads into her paintings.

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The Story Quilt

Woman on a Bridge #1 of 5: Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, 1988, via The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation


Faith Ringgold is especially known for innovating the story quilt—a visually and narratively rich mode of wall art that combines painting, textiles, and the written word. A typical story quilt by Ringgold is comprised of a large panel of unstretched canvas covered with figurative and decorative acrylic paintings and handwritten text. Like a traditional quilt, these compositions are often framed by a patchwork fabric border.


In the early 1980s, Ringgold shifted her focus from painting to the story quilt. This was an intentional deviation from the traditional hierarchy of the Western European art establishment, which historically favored the creative work of white men. Ringgold’s use of quilting in art intended for museum walls was not only aesthetically innovative. It was also subversive, bringing materials and processes associated with women’s domestic labor and African-American culture into contexts that systematically excluded them.


The story quilt also helped make art about the Civil Rights movement, feminism, and other important social issues more accessible and engaging to diverse audiences. “Paintings, people really don’t understand,” Ringgold once remarked. “They don’t really get paintings. Quilts they do understand because everybody has a quilt in their house.”


Faith Ringgold’s Legacy

Faith Ringgold photographed in 2020 by Meron Tekie Menghistab, via The New York Times


In addition to pioneering the story quilt, Faith Ringgold boldly broke down barriers for marginalized groups in the mainstream art world. She was arrested on multiple occasions for staging protests at major American art institutions, many of which have since added her story quilts to their permanent collections.


Faith Ringgold’s work expanded the scope of fine art and negotiated space for women and people of color within the American art establishment. In 2022, Ringgold told Harper’s Bazaar, “I hope my work expresses the life and deeds of Black people and other aspects of the world that have thrilled me. For me, art has always been about seeing. In a way, though, it can also inspire you to dream up what you don’t see—the things you imagine and can make real as a work of art.”

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.