This blog is composed of images and writings related to the life and work of Faith Ringgold, her mother Mme. Willi Posey, and her daughters Michele and Barbara Wallace. There are pages with links to blogs composed of the materials arranged by decades. The blog, itself, will ultimately be composed of materials related to the life of the family in the 90s and the 21st century.


Critical Essay: Concerning Work on The Ancestors

Michele Wallace and Mme. Willi Posey (Momma Jones) after the college graduation of the former standing outside of Madison Square Garden, New York June 1974.  It was a windy day and Mom (Faith Ringgold) was took the picture.

Yesterday I attended a powerpoint Faith did at the National Arts Club as she was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award for the City College of New York Art Alumni.

She presented recent soft sculpture of her ancestors--her grandmothers and grandfathers, and her great-grands and great-great grands with the years of the life span following the place of birth.  Almost all died some place else other than where they were born owing to the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North during the early decades of the 20th Century.

In particular I was struck by this in the case of Ida Matilda Posey, Mom's grandmother, who was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1869 but then died in New York City in 1927. It creates an entirely different picture if you think she lived her whole life in Florida, which she did not. Mom's grandfather was born in Rocky Grove, Aiken County, South Carolina--so far as I can tell--but he died in Palatka, Florida in 1912 suddenly of appendicitis. 

Although it is often remarked how young he was when he died, he was born in 1860 and he was 52. The same story was told of Ida that she died in her youth, yet she was actually 58. Not that 52 and 58 are that old but it isn't the first blush of youth either. Ida died of Bright's Disease. Obviously they both died of the tenuous health care of the early 20th century, with an added component perhaps of Jim Crow health care although how this worked for Ida Posey in the New York hospitals is a subject to be explored.  I am assuming that blacks received sub-standard health care in the hospitals of New York in the 20s since they still do especially in the public hospital of New York in 2009.

But it may be that people didn't often live of a burst appendix in 1912 or of Bright's disease in 1927 period.

I do know that great care was frequently taken to conceal the true age, to the point of lying to the census takers, for which they no doubt had their very good reasons. I suspect in cases where education was highly valued (such as happened with Zora Neale Hurston), the age was put back in order to take advantage of some public program restricted to the young. From the time of the Emancipation Proclamation until now blacks were always playing catch up.

But the location and date of B.B.'s death in Palatka in 1912 is very important because Palatka is also where his youngest children Edith, Willi (Mom's mother) and Hilliard were born. It was when BB died suddenly of appendicitis that the family was gradually split up and scattered. It is also important because in the interviews I did with her in 1978 and 1980, MJ obviously considered Palatka her true place of origin. Apparently MJ ended up staying in Palatka to finish her primary schooling perhaps at that very same primary school for colored listed in the directory, living with a family named the Massingales, who had never had children themselves, whereas Ida sold the house in Palatka and took the other children with her to live with her mother, Betsy Bingham in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Palatka and Jacksonville are only about 30 miles away from one another and connected by a very convenient railroad line then.  There was also a ferry although MJ doesn't mention it.  No doubt it practiced Jim Crow and it may be that blacks carefully avoided Jim Crow accommodations and shielded their children from them whenever they could.  MJ remarks upon how her mother would bring Edith and Hilliard with her to visit MJ in Palatka on Christmas and other holidays.  Could it be that the commuter rail was small enough that the seating wasn't racially segregated or perhaps it was underutilized?

The education of the eldest children Cardoza, Bessie and Inez at the Florida Baptist Academy was terminated because of lack of funds. Cardoza who had been born in 1892 was 20 years old and would by 1917 move North to New Jersey, establishing the first outpost of the immediate family in the North. Bessie who was 16 in 1912 and would live with her mother in Jacksonville until she married Henry Austin and then moved to Harlem with her husband who had a job as a cook on a boat docking in New York. This change of venue is important to our wing of the family because MJ would travel to Harlem to live with her and to attend Wadleigh high school in New York, and so therefore MJ went from really small rural town, which was hardly racially segregated to Harlem which was the capital of the black world.  Although she was born in the South, she had never really experienced the pain of segregation and Jim Crow first hand.

Which may account for much of her sunny disposition toward life, I wonder?  She was no doubt of an optimistic bent but whether this was her innate disposition backed up by life circumstances or whether life circumstances generated her optimism is not a question I can answer any better than most psychologists.

For me the fact that Mom is doing this work is fascinating, particularly since she has done so much other work using the figure of MJ and her immediate family. If it happens over and over again in an artist's work, one must ask how has that meaning grown? What does it mean this time, as she grows older. It's like artist self-portraits as the artist changes. 

One can see the development in self-perception and world perspective. In any case, this project was initiated with friends Linda Freeman and Grace Matthews.

1909 Palatka Directory

This is information culled from the Palatka City Directory:

Public School #2 for colored,
cor of North and Reid,
CB White, Principal, Mrs. Maggie M. Drakeford,
asst. Misses Bessie E. Hawkins, Estelle D. Drakeford, Alaie J. McLaughlin, Margie E. Trapp.

St. Mary's Day School (negro Episcopal),
Lemon (the street MJ is always talking about) between 8th and 9th Street, Mrs. L.A. Morris< Principal.
Presbyterian (negro) cor Lemon and S. 8th Street. Rev. F. Gregg, principal.

How could MJ not have noticed that every thing was segregated although she readily conceeded that she didn't know where the white kids went to school. It just underscores the observation my therapist Dr. Lila Coleburn made in her Ph.D. thesis at the CUNY Graduate Center in Psychology that children under a certain age, children aren't able t incorporate the full complexity of racial segregation as a social practice since superficial groupings such as races are not a part of their world view yet anyway.


Photo Collection: Concerning Copyright Use of Images--Very Important

All images posted on this blog, including both photographs and works of art, are restricted by copyright use.  With very few exceptions, the copyright registration is Faith Ringgold.  It is illegal to use any of these images in any manner without the explicit permission of Faith Ringgold or her legal representatives (which I have!)

All such request for use, which will be given due consideration in the order of their receipt, should be made to Grace Matthews, Artist Assistant, and/or Faith Ringgold at For more information concerning the art work, see, Mom's website.

Presentation of these images on my blog and my website is purely for research and scholarly purposes in order to disseminate the existence of such images under the "fair use" provisions of the copyright law, and in all cases in which copyright use applies.  

In this regard, I am also eager to receive information concerning any and all the photographers who produced the photographs included herein, and can be contacted via my webpage at  

Yes, I've decided to use my middle name (faith) afterall.  Or at least the first initial f for purchase of a domain name.  Apparently Michele Wallace is actually taken so don't go there looking for me. My name was at birth Michele Faith Wallace, as my sister's name is Barbara Faith Wallace.  And my niece was named after Grandma and as such has both her first and middle name, Faith Willi, and so you see we are all named Faith. FYI, both Faith Sr. and Faith Jr. get their middle names from my grandmother Willi Posey, who provided the inspiration for this blog.



The French Collection Number 8:
On the Beach at St. Tropez,
Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed quilt frame
74 x 92 inches
Copyright Faith Ringgold, 1991.

The French Collection Number 7:
Picasso's Studio, 1991
Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed quilt frame
73 x 68 inches
Worcester Art Museum
Worcester, Massachusetts
Charlotte E. Buffington Fund
Copyright Faith Ringgold, 1991

French Collection Number Five:
Matisse's Model, 1991
Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed quilt frame
73.5 x 90 inches
Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore, Maryland
Copyright Faith Ringgold 1991

French Collection Number 6:
Matisse's Chapel, 1991
Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed quilt frame
74 x 79.5 inches
Collection of George Wein
Copyright Faith Ringgold 1991

French Collection Number Nine:
Jo Baker's Birthday, 1993
Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed quilt frame
73 x 78 inches, St Louis Art Museum
St. Louis, Missouri
Copyright Faith Ringgld 1991

French Collection Number Three:
Picnic at Giverny, 1991
Acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed quilt frame
Private Collection
Copyright Faith Ringgold 1991

See "The French Collection: Momma Jones, Mommy Fay and Me." In Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold's French Collection and Other Story Quilts edited by Dan Cameron, University of California Press 1998. Forgot to mention that this is a pretty expensive book if you buy from the University of California, which is where this link goes. The price is $35 or so at Amazon. Of course, there's shipping. Also, for more on this topic see The Mona Lisa Interview at

The Place of the Photograph in a Digital Universe

The French Collection Number 4: Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, 
acrylic on canvas, tie-dyed pieced fabric border
73.5 x 80 inches 1991
Collection of Oprah Winfrey
Copyright Faith Ringgold 1991

This blog is devoted to exploring the photographs and art works of Faith Ringgold, with a particular focus on the photographs, documents and art related to the lives of Ringgold, her mother Willi Posey and her two daughters, Michele Wallace and Barbara Wallace.

We have always lived in the immediate context of a world mediated by visual art and photography.  Both Barbara and Faith, Sr. are wonderful photographers in their own right. Barbara's oldest daughter Faith, whose major occupation is as a micro-biologist, is also a wonderful photographer, as well as the prime initiator of these blogs and my new website,  Barbara has also been tremendously helpful in getting the blogs started and I am looking forward to loading onto this site the many wonderful pictures she took of me during the heyday of my first book Black Macho and The Myth of The Superwoman in the late 70s.  There are also the photographs she took of us around the time that Faith Jr. was born. I find that I am scarcely able to remember those chapters in my life which aren't bookmarked with photographs taken at the time.  

I find that often when I look at a picture of myself, whether it is photographic or an original work of art, I can remember exactly what I was thinking at the time, and even though a moment before I had no recollection of the events, I can now remember the context, the people that were there and things that happened that I had completely forgotten.  This is also true, sometimes, of photographs and images of others, photographs and/or images of news events or photographs which recall for me a landscape or a location or even a piece of furniture that was once in my life.  It seems that these images occupy the key to the cryptic manner in which my memories are arranged, with the most important memories right beneath the surface of the gaze when my eye comes in contact with something visual that seems familiar.  The next moment I am remembering something that I had completely forgotten, in oddly shaped fragments.  Each time, for particularly powerful images, I will remember something altogether different.  

I don't believe it has much to do with the intrinsic qualities or value of the image-- how well it is done according to some impartial standard of photography or art making-- although it may be that the images to which we attach the most meaning, significance and financial value are those that touch the widest array of people, or maybe they touch the richest people, or the whitest people, or the people who think of themselves as white.  I don't know and I don't have much interest really in figuring this part out.  All I know is that the images you care about (or that I care about) have to be safeguarded because there are a lot of people out there who wish to tell you that your visuals are without value or importance and that you should stop looking at them and get rid of them.  This seems perhaps the unintended consequence of the digital revolution and everybody snapping cell phone images twenty-four-seven.  

In short order, if it hasn't already happened, this endless proliferation of digital images which are crowding everybody's hard drive and so forth will drown out all sense of the place photography once occupied in our lives before computers and digital files and digital cameras.  Not that digital cameras don't produce beautiful pictures.  They can and they do.  And it seems the difference between the real photographers and the fakes is as much in place as ever.  

BUT it is going to get harder and harder for ordinary people (who have no time to study the situation) to tell the difference and to attach value and/or meaning to visual images in general, photographs perhaps in particular. 

Friends of Soul Pictures

Michele Wallace

Post Archive

Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures

Michele Wallace: Talking in Pictures
Barbara, MJ, Michele and Mom in the background in sunglasses at a fashion show in the early 60s