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.


Photo-Essay: MJ, Mr. Morrison and Mom at the Lenox Terrace 1970s

MJ with her husband, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This picture taken by my sister Barbara in 1977 during our usual family gatherings for the holidays captures very much what my life was before 1981 when my grandmother died. She served as an anchor for the kind of life I had and somehow imagined I would always have. From 1979 when Black Macho was published until 1981 when she finally died, that world shattered all to pieces never to assume its former shape again. The absense of just a few people can alter your life forever. This is the thing one must learn and know about death, that it is constantly altering the shape and reality of the world we live in. One must constantly leave a place for it, be flexible about its constant arrivals. I know it sounds a little miserable but actually it isn't. 
It is just real.


Photo Collection: Excerpt from my Ms Cover of 1979

Photo by Anthony Barboza, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
The excerpt is a thing of beauty to read.  Perfect in every respect except that it softens a number of the rougher edges, in particular the critique of white women.  The other edge it softened, which was much appreciated, was its critique of various black writers including Nikki Giovanni and Angela Davis.  I love both of these ladies, always did in truth.  They are  fierce. The picture is heaven although  I know it wasn't heaven for Mom.  She felt like she got the shaft.  I KNOW I did.


Photo Essay: Aunt Helen Died at 51 in 1962

This is a picture of the side of the big house at Camp Craigmeade and this lovely lady is one of the campers, not me but somebody who didn't mind having her picture taken. I don't know why we have her picture or who she might be but suffice it to say that when I was at Camp Craigmeade I knew who everybody was.

Just today realized that the summer Aunt Helen died at camp was in 1962. Barbara and I went to Camp Craigmeade for the last time in 1962, also the first summer of Faith and Burdette's marriage. Didn't know it would be the last year but it makes sense now that without Aunt Helen's determination to make it work, the camp could not survive. There were many kids there who went to the school she ran. I was ten and Barbara was nine. Yet another thing was about to change forever subsequent to our new life with Dad (Burdette).

Her name was Helen McIntosh Meade, as I have learned from her obituary in the New York Times (August 15, 1962) as unearthed by my sister Barbara today. The headline reads "Mrs. N.T. Meade, 51, Led Private School." She was the owner of Camp Craigmeade, which was described as "an interracial camp" in Roxbury, New York. It says she died of a heart attack on a Saturday, although nothing about her illness while at camp. The biggest surprise was that she was only 51 when she died when I thought her to be much older. She was the wife of Nathaniel T. Meade, who was also a founder of their school the Little Brown School House in 1934 in the Bronx at 1177 Hoe Avenue. I also thought the other two Aunties, who were perhaps relatives of hers, were much older too but they too were probably at most in their early 60s. Afterall, the hygenic conditions at the camp--no running water, no hot water, no heat, no plumbing to speak of and outhouses, no paved roads--were certainly challenging for anybody not ambulatory and strong.

I had always suspected that Aunt Helen was highly educated and progressive and this is confirmed by the obituary, something about the way she wore her hair, something about the way she talked that I could already see even though I was only ten. She had graduated from New York Teachers Training College in New York in New York in 1931, and later received her B.S. and M.A. degrees from Teacher's College at Columbia University. After teaching briefly in the public school system, she founded her own school and operated summer camps for many years. She was national recording secretary of the National Council of Negro Women and the President of its Manhattan Chapter. Meade was also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was survived by her husband, Nathaniel, her stepmother and her brother Eugene E. McIntosh, Jr. I am perfectly thrilled by this discovery.

She gave me one natural fit about my bedwetting which must have been particularly bad in that last year, I am not sure why.  

Easter Outfit 1967

Easter 1967, originally uploaded by olympia2x.

By this time in my life, I was 14, extremely shy and self-conscious. Lots of things had happened to move me in that direction. Probably the most important was that I had gone from being an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, thanks to the invention of the hydro-cortisone creams pioneered by my personal dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentriech, a really famous doctor from then to now, which meant the males of the species were noticing for the first time in a big way.

As part of participating in the lab work for the new product, I had to collect my urine all day in bottles in my locker and take it to the doctor's office downtown. I lived in mortification that somebody would catch me with one of these bottles. I am sure it built space between myself and my fellow students. The process was over in the course of a month as I recall, or maybe from time to time I had to collect urine. Who can remember. I just know I lived in my own world in my thoughts, which I had no idea how to express in words. I was in Tenth Grade.

That summer Barbara and I would go to Europe with MJ while mother stayed home in New York and put the finishing touches on her American People Series. In this picture we are with MJ visiting with Uncle Cardoza and his wife Esther in Hempstead.

I remember these stockings and that coat and that i was wearing a garter belt to hold up the rather shiny, light colored stockings. The coat was creme colored and made my MJ as were the shoes, which I adored. The mini-skirt was in. I wore it at all times unless I was wearing bell bottoms, which were also in.

Photo Collection: Marion, My Counselor 1960s

MarionCamp, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This lovely lady was my first counselor at camp and I adored her. She was sweet, gentle and pretty.

Photo-Essay: Aunt Helen 1960s

Aunt Helen, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This is Aunt Helen in the white shorts (always wore white shorts) with the other two aunties who ran the camp. They did the cooking. Back in the 50s. We first went to Camp Craigmeade, an all black camp in the Catskills between 1956 and 1958, and we went there another four summers until one summer Aunt Helen died when we were in residence, which was the end of the camp. The location was a mountain site about a mile outside of Roxbury, New York and I have always meant to return there just to see if the outhouses and everything is still as I remember it. The story of who these black people came to own this camp is of interest to me as well. Were we not welcome at white camps? I don't know. I do know that Aunt Helen Meade was a maverick in everything she did, unlike any person I've ever met. Behind them stands the stone wall where we often gathered at the camp, or walked along on top of it. Childhood was heaven indeed.


Photo Essay: Momma T, MJ and Michele 1950s

Momma T, MJ and Michele, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
What are the chances of anybody having such gorgeous grandmothers in 1952. They are stunning, glamourous women like two great actresses who effortlessly outperform one another. The competition between them, the awkwardness of the fit between the two families--one Jamaican and one from Florida, both spearheaded by young women who fled their homelands for New York City while they were still in their teens. Both women pretend to be wryly thrilled about the arrival of their baby grandchild to persons who have no job or security.  My mother is 22, my father 25 but being a woman of this age myself and then some  (both were born in 1903 and were therefore 49 years of age pushing 50) , I can recognize the signs of their delight that their granddaughter is so fit but also that they are worried about what will become of my future. These are not women who stand back and let things go as they might.  Momma T has only one child, my father, although I guess you would have to say she had abandoned him for her second husband in a time of great need.  Momma T is on her way back to Guam with her second husband who is in the military. MJ is probably deeply wondering when or how her daughter and her grandchild will be removed from this apartment where things are not going well for her own daughter.  From what I understand, the uncertainty of their relationship was plain from the very beginning.

Photo Collection: Baby Michele 1950s

Baby Michele, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This picture of Aunt Barbara represents very much the way she was, somebody who confronted the camera, who was there to meet it. She adored me from my birth, she had told me endless times. In 1952 on Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem, what a beautiful baby I was with a beautiful aunt. Beauty was a pretty big thing for Aunt Barbara and God had blessed her with great beauty for much of her life. Here she is, somehow, very much as I remember her from the 50s. And me as the fat faced, big headed baby, alert and alive to the attentions of these beautiful women. This may have been the day upon which I was christened at Abyssinian Baptist Church with Mr. Morrison as my godfather and Aunt Doris as my godmother. Momma T had come from Guam in particular to see me. Everybody know a man's child, my mother reports she said upon seeing me. My mother was only 22 and already in need of a divorce from her musician husband, Earl Wallace, 25 years old.


New Lincoln Picture 1960s

New Lincoln Picture, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This was  me in the school year I graduated (1968/69), the fall of 1968 I believe but now my hair is in an Afro.
It was Revolution time in New York, in Harlem, at New Lincoln and everywhere else yet I  would go from studying dance at Arthur Mitchell's new school of ballet in Harlem to studying acting at the National Black Theatre on 125th Street.  Martin Luther King must have already been killed by this time because as I understand it, Arthur Mitchell had been motivated by King's death to start his Dance Theatre of Harlem.   It had always been his dream to start a black ballet company.  King's death was the wake-up call he needed not to put it off any longer, I discovered somewhat later when I had a chance to interview him.
The classes were held in the former or still present Harlem School of the Arts in the buildings of the little church still standing on the corner of 141st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.  This institution was and is still called the Harlem School of Arts.  At first, Mitchell used this space and he had two classes, one for all the children who were beginners and one for the more advanced group which either had previous training or talent and physical grace to burn.  By obvious background in ballet, I was placed in the beginner class.  The first day was one of the most pleasant days I had ever experienced in my aspirations to study dance.
The teacher whose name I can't recall (maybe it was Walter, very good looking) was a young black male who was either already an important dancer himself or on the verge of being one.  He immediately separated me from the others and used me to demonstrate correct positioning of the body in the barre exercises, in particular simple exercises including tendu and demi and full plies in first, second and fifth position, releves, ronde de jambe tendu and developee.  I had a great pointe at the time, and a good background in basic ballet, which I had worked on very diligently on my own.  I even took ballet classes during our summers in Provincetown.  Dancing ran in the family and nice feet with good arches were a family trait so my ability to point my toes and to perform the basic leg movements made me stand out as more competent than a rank amateur.
Also, I was 16 so that's pretty old to be a beginner in ballet.  The rest of the beginner class was composed largely of children, under 13 I would guess.  Not only was I 16, although I was only 5'2" at the time, I prided myself on appearing sophisticated and as adult as I could muster.  I now know in retrospect that I probably could have succeeded in transforming myself into a passably competent ballet dancer because of my physical abilities.  I was strong and graceful in the athletic sense although I was shy and withdrawn but the shyness would not have necessarily been a hindrance in the corp if I had been willing to do as I was told and follow the group.   But there was at the time a tremendous glass ceiling facing the black female dancer in ballet and ballet was actually the only form in which I felt entirely comfortable.
You could say that I loved ballet and longed, in the deepest sense, to be a ballet dancer.  New York had a lot of ballet dancers and it was $2 to sit in the cheap seats  at the ballet.  Dance classes were also very cheap, maybe two to four dollars as well.  But I lacked both the discipline and the determination to really make good on Mitchell's opportunity.  You might say we were on a collision course with me heading someplace else entirely.  I was there more for the exercise, the physical training, the beauty of the music and the other dancers, and had accidentally stumbled into an express train when all I really wanted was to see the sights.  The early days of Arthur Mitchell's school was a terribly exciting, inspiring and uplifting environment.
Through the years of my adolescence I had been taking advantage of the array of dance classes available in New York.  These had included classes at the Joffrey School, with Valerie Bettis and with John Wideman in what would now be considered NoHo.  Besides taking classes fairly frequently at the Harlem School of the Arts before Mitchell's arrival, I also took dance classes at Leroi Jones Black Arts School in the summer of 1965 along with my sister and my Mom who took printmaking with Ed Spriggs.  It was at Jones' school that I first took African Dance I believe when I was 13, which was a real revelation.  In those days all dance classes were taught with the most magnificent live music.  With my love for music, the live music alone would have been enough to keep me coming for more.
I found young (adolescent) ballet dancers and their mothers the most fascinating creatures in all the world of Manhattan.  I found the dramas unfolding in the classes, the dressing rooms, the hallways and performances absolutely riveting.
At the conclusion of that first day in the beginner class, Walter took me to the more advanced class, introduced me to the teacher Arthur Shook, Mitchell's wise ballet master.   He told me that from now on I should attend the more advanced class, which was the end of my happiness.  In the advanced class there were a full range of people, including people who were obviously already professional dancers, people who had come in from Europe just for this opportunity because a door that had been closed was getting ready to creak open (although it took at least another 30 years for the deed to be well and truly done, I think black ballet dancers have finally arrived and are here to stay).
Morever, Shook was not the type to give false praise, or any kind of praise at all.  He spotted me for a slacker I think from when we first saw one another.  As I know all too well these days that the desire to avoid hard work is the first thing a teacher is inclined to notice about a young person.  Meanwhile,  Shook was into slow arduous painstaking technique, lots of sweat and fore bearance.  Work was his first, middle and last name.
I don't know whether I imagined them but it seems to me  I recall, as well, a number of parenthetical lectures about the shortcomings of the training of American ballet dancers, the lack of discipline, the mindless and shapeless fluttering of the arms.  Mitchell was a product of Balanchine's training which he brought from Russia and France and Shook, who I think may have been a European of some variety and was much older than Mitchell, obviously came from hell.  Or at least I felt like he did often enough.  If Shook's class was slow and painstaking then Mitchell's class was like being asked to fly without benefit of elevation.  Mitchell raced through the barre and moved on quickly to lightening combinations, leaps and all sorts of crazy stuff that you had to pick up and do faster than you could think about it or be left in the back of the room staring.  And it's not like he would just ignore the people who were lagging.  He would taunts you and make funny cracks about you to his own considerable amusement.  He had a wonderful bright charismatic personality.  He was one of the most handsome men I had ever seen and he frequently performed in class for benefit.  He held nothing back.  What strikes me now is how available he was to us, how much time he took.
The schedule was two classes every afternoon and evening after school during the week and all day Saturday.  It was an absolutely grueling routine.  I was always hungry, as I recall, always sleepy.  It was clear to me from almost the start that I wasn't going to last.  The back of the room was not a viable place to remain in the forthcoming company class.  It was no place to relax.  And shyness was not anything Mitchell seemed to respect. In my case, I was taunted and chastised for every move I made or didn't make.  I think I was vaguely aware that I was receiving all this attention because they were both interested in my possibilities, but in my heart of hearts I think I always knew that it could never work out.
I know at some point I decided to abandon the classes there, in the middle of Karl Shook's class one day.  It may have been a pointe class, which I had looked forward to all my life but which I hated in actual fact, and he had just demanded that we do something I knew I could and would never do. So I just grabbed my stuff and walked out.
There are some other things related to this.  First, I was attending a real and seriously challenging school, a school in which the aspiration to be a dancer was regarded with thinly veiled contempt.  Also, my mind was very much on the revolution in the streets, the transformation and revelation of my black identity, and I was greatly disappointed by the generally low intellectual level of the conversation and aspirations of the other future dancers.  The only people who really seemed to like me were the young men in the classes who were also the only ones who encouraged me and told me how beautiful I was because Mitchell and Shook were always complaining that I was too fat.  The Anorexic thing was really in in the dance world at that time.  It only made it worse that I had never heard the word anorexic or bulimic yet.
The other thing that must have happened somehow in coordination with my straying away from Mitchell's school was that at some point I decided to apply at Julliard as a dance major.  Modern dance.  I dared not speak the holy name of ballet. Encouraged by the dancer I had worked with at Music and Art High School during the summer, I had applied and was scheduled for the day of interviews and the audition.  My plan was to use the routine that I had performed that summer at Music and Art at the final performance but once I left Mitchell, I didn't do much preparation or rehearsal I suspect.  As I recall, the way they did the interview process was that you were called in for the day with a number of other girls, maybe three or four and the group of you toured the facilities, were acquainted with all the teachers and the way that Juilliard did everything.  Everybody was encouraging and sweet.  It was like being in heaven.
 The final event of the day was the audition, which I was dreading because I knew I was not prepared for it.  I don't know which order I performed in but I remember that there was a panel of reviewers which included Jerome Robbins and Agnes DeMille.  The room was chockablock with famous dancers whom I had been reading about in Dance Magazine.  Rarely can I recall ever having been so afraid in my life.  I wanted to run away again but I was determined I was not going to run the way I had run from Shook's class.  Being a coward did not feel right.
I don't know where my mother was but I don't recall anybody else's parents being there either.  We were treated like adults, it seemed to me.  So I performed my dance.  It seemed to me that I had done so so poorly, that I was trembling and that I was a fake, somebody who had gotten into their midst on false pretenses.  I was embarrassed, humiliated and ashamed, but then going to Julliard was really the only college I had ever dreamed of attending.  This was enough to convince me that I never should or could be a dancer.
But I will always remember that Jerome Robbins encouraged me to try again, to continue training.  At the time, I was so completely convinced that he didn't mean it, that he had said it out of pity and contempt.  Of course being black in a room in which there were no other black people along with the implied assumption that serious modern or ballet was not our world didn't help the situation either.  But I was only 16 and probably a good deal better and full of potential than I imagined.  I didn't know then that there is almost nothing you can't do at 16 but it took moxie to go through with the audition given the odds of not being successful.  The reviewers would have to be full out racists not to have admired me a little.
Not too many years after that, I saw a movie with my mother called FAME, which was about a performing arts high school.  I watched the interviewing and auditioning process eagerly, gratified to see that not having a ghost of a chance or not having adequately prepared for an audition was not the most far out thing in an environment like that.  One has to let these things go eventually.  Also, I had  the great pleasure of getting to visit my niece Faith during her time as a student at Bryn Mawr, a small private women's college where the Dance Department is extensive and well run.  I attended a dance concert put on by their dance department. It was a Department in which I would imagine few of the students were expecting to have careers as dancer.  But Bryn Mawr, like a lot of private colleges, had the view that instruction in dance could help to build character, taste, vision, good health, all the fine qualities that make you a wonderful human being.
Faith performed magnificently in an African dance troupe that was part of the classes offered at the college.  We have the performance on dvd somewhere. Even more gratifying to me was to see the warmth and intimacy between Faith, the rest of the girls and the Dance Department at Bryn Mawr College.  Once again I silently thanked the saints for leading Faith to Bryn Mawr and for making it possible for her to procure such a generous scholarship there.
More than 40 years ago.  On a bench just outside of Central Park.

This was my yearbook picture, one grabbed on the fly by a patient student photographer.

Photo Essay: Michele in Anything Goes 1968

This is before I got an Afro, which means I was 16, maybe still dating Stanley Nelson, my boyfriend.  I can hardly recall.  I remember being that girl doing that routine but what else was going on in my life is fuzzy.  Anything Goes was a New Lincoln musical production and great fun in the doing.
The summer before in 1967 Barbara and I had gone to Europe with MJ for two whole months while Mom Faith concentrated on producing her great murals DIE, THE FLAG IS BLEEDING and THE UNITED STATES POSTAGE STAMP TO COMMEMORATE BLACK POWER.  During the day she painted at the Spectrum gallery on 57th Street with her friend Jeannine Petite, and in the evenings she avoided her own apartment where Dad was and went instead to MJ's smaller, less demanding apartment.  Dad was effectively abandoned for the summer and eventually wondered away to establish his new apartment in 409.  Faith tells me and tells everyone that this was the first time ever in her adult life that she had ever been entirely on her own, entirely alone and free to do whatever she wished without having to consider the wants and needs of her family.  She was 37 years old and it had been a very long wait.

The sacrifice she made was that at the end of the summer, Dad and her were no longer living together.  After the fall out from two month trip to Europe (to Paris, Rome, London, Florence and perhaps Nice) with MJ the summer of 1967, we were considered incapable of taking trips with adults. We had been rude with MJ, a problem we had never had before. I was consumed with guilt at the time because as I recall my one abiding thought in every beautiful European city we visited was how to get away from MJ so that I could have a cigarette. Barbara and I were both mildly addicted to cigarettes at this point. 

Both of our parents smoked at home.  Unfortunately, many of the kids at New Lincoln smoked. Cigarettes were easily procured from other students. We had a student lounge in which the major activity other than playing cards, was smoking and we had a little hangout down the street where the smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife. 

The kids at New Lincoln were very worldly and sophisticated, disrespectful and disdainful of both religion and authority, terrifyingly so in fact, and I am afraid it had a negative impact on my regard for MJ's more homespun style of childrearing and instruction.  It was she who had given me my initial training in religion, deportment, manners, morality and ethics. I had always taken her very seriously, loved her food, her cooking, her clothes, everything about her.  When we moved away from her house on Edgecombe Avenue to the Bronx, I had even tried to run away to go live with her, for which I got the only whipping that I can clearly remember. 

We had only great times at MJ's house and even once we had gone to live in the Bronx or in 345, weekends, sick days and holidays were all spent with MJ.  We were always welcome at her house.  I often accompanied her wherever she needed or wanted to go.  My relationship with her had always been easy, completely loving and warm.  At MJ's house there was no housework and cooking, no holding back on the childcentered quality of the environment she provided. You were woken up early in the morning with a day of fun planned for you and then it was early to bed.  Unlike my Mom, MJ could somehow easily manage this, all her housework, the cooking and her sewing too.  Mixed in as well were delightful surprises of entertainments you had not imagined, foods you loved to eat but rarely saw in the Bronx and just the greatest fun you could possibly imagine.  

Sometimes when it was warm, it was still light when we were put to bed. I know I would not have gone to bed so early for my Mom and Dad but for MJ, you did anything she wanted. So it was all the more surprising and unacceptible that we were starting to laugh behind MJ's back and keep secrets from her, sneaking away to grab cigarettes in the bathroom down the hall (in Europe we stayed all three of us in a single room in a pensione with a bathroom down the hall. Kids are not good at sneaking but we had to sneak to buy the cigarettes, sneak to smoke them, and sneak to keep them hidden from her finding them.  It must have been truly terrible for her. All the time, i assumed she knew we were smoking although she never accused us of it.  Years later my Mom told me that she never said we were smoking, only that we had misbehaved.  I'll never know whether she knew or whether she didn't know that smoking was at the root of the problem.

So Barbara and I both spent the summer of 1968 in an arts program in Harlem at Music and Art, which was then located on the City College of New York campus. Given my superior training and maturity, I was soon drafted by the teacher as her demonstration assistant. Mom was chasing the Art World after the opening of her first one-woman show at the Spectrum Gallery in the fall of 1967, to which we invited all our friends from New Lincoln.  We drank champagne and danced as the adults made a circle around us.


Photo-Essay: Willi Posey, Faith, Barbara, and Andrew 1970s

"Primitive is a word I use in a positive way to explain the completeness of a concept in art.  I like to layer and pattern and embellish my art in the manner of tribal art, and then, like a blues singer, I like to repeat and repeat it again.  Fragmented, understated, or minimalist art forms frustrate me.  I want to finish them.  In the 1960s there was a minimalist aesthetic advocating "less is more."  To me, less is even less and more is still not quite enough. "
These words written to amplify her use of beads, feathers and embellishment on her masks inspired by her trip to Nigeria and Ghana the summers of 1976 and 1977, are also stunning to consider in relationship to much of the soft sculpture and painting Faith did in the early 70s.   For instance, these soft sculptures which were part of an extended series of masks with costumes made by MJ in tribute to the memories of the families she knew growing up in Harlem, are relevant as well to her approach to primitivism as an aesthetic concept in which one would deliberately overdo, underscore and emphasize.
Many of these masks were of people no longer living and may have been in part inspired by the series of deaths of many older members of Faith's immediate family in the 60s and early 70s, as would be more strongly referenced in THE WAKE AND RESURRECTION OF THE BICENTENNIAL NEGRO.  This particular sculptural group is of MJ, Mom and her siblings as children.  All these years later, now that the others are dead (Aunt Barbara and MJ) as well as Uncle Andrew, these sculpture have a commemorative feeling to them.  For me I had always thought of their faces as masks of death.  The faces are placid like corpses displayed in an open coffin at a funeral, of which there were many we attended at that time.
As for the sculpture themselves, it is as if I had grown into the acceptance of them over time in replacement of the lost family members.   At the time, when I would visit Faith, I remember the house slowly filling up with them and wondering what it might mean for the future.

One needs to be reminded that these soft sculptures (also masks with costumes attached) are designed to be abstract representations of MJ (Faith's mother), herself, her sister and her brother as children. Photograph by Barbara Wallace at ACA gallery earlier this year.


Photo Collection: Mom and Dad in 2009

Mom and Dad in 2009 at IHop.  Pictures taken by their loving granddaughter, Faith Wallace Gadsden.  Just brilliant!


Photo-Essay: Mom and Dad 1970s

Mom and Dad II, originally uploaded by olympia2x.
This is Mom and Dad back in the day at 409 Edgecombe Avenue. The year is 1977.
My Dad is Burdette Ringgold.  My mother Faith and he were married in 1962.  In 1963, we all moved from the Bronx to 145th Street, where for the first time we had enough rooms for one of them to be devoted to a studio for my Mom's art work.  Barbara and I shared the largest bedroom which had its own toilet attached, separate from the larger master bathroom.
My sister and I switched that fall from Our Savior Lutheran School in the Bronx to New Lincoln School on 110th Street and Central Park North.  And what a switch that was.

First, a new Dad.  Then a new school and a new neighborhood.  I was definitely reeling from the culture shock, thoroughly intimidated by my new surroundings.
And then in November of 1963, while Barbara and I were still scrambling to adjust to New Lincoln's distinctly secular and progressive approach to education in which, for example, we called our teachers by their first names, something truly awful happened, something I can no longer really imagine but rather can only recollect based upon previous recollections ad infinitum.
I suppose the best thing about it was that I was a child and therefore had nothing to compare it to.  But I can still remember something of the physical landscape of that day,  that it was in the fall and I recall, the leaves were already turning.
When 9-11 happened in 2001, as it happened I was again living in the same building on 145th Street in Harlem where we had lived then.  I thought of that previous day when President Kennedy had been shot and idly wondered if the experiences of school children were anything like the way it was for us.  I hoped that it was because I remember only that I felt very protected when Kennedy was shot, not at all in any kind of  personal danger.  But then Jack Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas which from my point-of-view at that time might as well have been Oz for all I knew about its connection to the part of the United States in which I was living.
The school day ceased to progress in a manner that was then entirely invisible to me but which I would always recognize from then on in times of emergency in educational settings.   The announcement was made in a quiet and dignified way that the President, John F. Kennedy was shot, and I had occasion to recall this in particular recently when reading a reminiscence of that very same day written by my former 7th grade teacher, Helen Myers.  It was good to learn that even though I had been only 11 years old that I had still gotten the essentials right.
    I can't remember then how long it was from the announcement of his shooting to the announcement of his death, or whether I received any further information until I was actually with my parents but I remember that the next order of business was getting us home as quickly as possible where my family (and I guess I would assume all the other children's families) remained glued to our black and white television sets and the two or three television stations we then had for the duration, which I would guess extended over a period of days.
    In the Christian tradition, getting a head of state properly buried, particularly if it also happens that he was assassinated while in office, was I would guess a protracted process, not a simple matter.  And children are easily amazed at how long adults can take to do such things at such times.  I think I can recall some aspects of the processional apparently patterned after that of Abraham Lincoln as called for by his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy.
     I don't know if I actually remember seeing John John saluting his father's coffin that day or whether it is all the times I have seen it replayed in various forms.  What stands out in my mind since then is that he wore those short pants that little boys up to a certain age were sometimes dressed in, and that that same boy became a man who died only a year after his own mother died of cancer.
    From 1963 to 1977 was not such a very long time.  Malcolm X was shot in 1965 and that was a highly personal occasion because it happened in Harlem and my family lived in Harlem.  My parents and everybody I knew were deeply affected by his death.  His processional, viewing and funeral all took place in Harlem.  Then Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968, and this isn't to say that a great many other things didn't happen in between these dates, including the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well but I run the chronology through my mind if not daily, certainly often enough just so I won't ever forget the order in which things happened.
    I asked my Dad whether he was sent home on that day, whether they closed the line down at General Motors in Tarrytown when John F. Kennedy got killed.  He said they did.  I asked because I know they rarely closed the line down and his coming home from work without completing his day was something that only happened on fewer days than I can count on one hand during the time he worked there.   He then mentioned, as well, that he had come home early on the day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot but this time without authorization from the bureaucracy.  I gather the black workers, including him, refused to work.  His punishment was a 3 day suspension.  So much for the widespread love and respect for MLK in 1968.  But he says they didn't close the line down for Robert Kennedy either.  What a crazy time.

   Then I graduated from high school in 1969, went to Mexico during the first half of the summer, did not want to ever return to the United States but had to anyway, then spent the second half of the summer in the Sisters of the Good Sheppard Residence for girls in need of supervision across the street from Beth Israel Hospital in 17th Street.
Then I went to Howard University for one semester in the fall of 1969, personally delivered by my Mom with a suitcase full of new clothes and brand new bank account at the Howard University's campus bank.  Dad came to visit me sometime in the fall, was shocked at the free floating cattle market on display on the campus green right outside my dorm, which had just started to allow boys to visit on weekends, and advised Mom to bring me home immediately.
    I was back in New York at the City College of New York by February of 1970, working as an account adjuster at Best & Company during the day and attending night school.  I truly loved that job at Best & Company but they soon went out of business forever.  In 1974, I graduated from the City College of New York with a major in English and Creative Writing, under the careful tutelage of my mentor Mark Mirksy, now my colleague.
The summer of my graduation, the same summer in which Richard Nixon was impeached, I was working as a secretary in the office of the Editor-in-Chief of Random House at an exciting new job.  The world seemed to pass through that office.  I served coffee and did all the dictaphone typing.

In the fall of 1974 I had moved on to a job I liked even better on most days because I was no longer a typist and a server of coffee but a "research assistant" in the Book Review Department at Newsweek Magazine. Even more of the world flowed through these offices, which was known as "The Back of the Book," with Jack Kroll in charge.  It was during the two and a half years that I was employed by Newsweek that I met the people and made the connections that would lead to my free lance writing career at The Village Voice, a literary agent and a book contract at McGraw Hill for an as yet untitled book on the sexual politics of black women and black men.
At the birthday party for my Dad, and his sister Gloria in September of 1977, at which this picture was taken, I was presumably then engaged in writing the manuscript that would become Black Macho and The Myth of the Superwoman in 1979.  The contract money had already run out and I had just begun to work full time in the position of Lecturer in the Journalism Program at New York University.  I was living at Washington Square Village, NYU housing.  I had moved from 345 early in the summer of 1976 upon the occasion of the massively successful Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts, which was given by a committee composed of Margo Jefferson, Pat Jones, Monica Freeman and myself at the Women's Interarts Center on the Westside.
See more of these pictures at


Mme. Willi Posey in Her Prime 1950s

This is the same suit on the same day but in color.  

Mme. Willi Posey in her Prime 1950s

Absolutely in her prime in a black suit designed by her posing for the camera at 363 Edgecombe Avenue in 1954, the day Barbara and I and Mom came to live with her.  MJ was 49 years old.  Always looking up.  Photographer TBA.

Photo Collection: MJ with Her Favorite Model Anne Porter1950s

In the 50s, MJ had a particular favorite among her models.  This was Anne Porter.  The two of them sitting in the livingroom at 363 Edgecombe Avenue. Photographer TBA.

Photo Collection: MJ and Me on The Beach at Setauket 1980s

These were good times, the summer of 1980 or so with Momma Jones (MJ) and Pop-Pop on the Beach at Setauket.  MJ married Pop-Pop, her teenage sweetheart, in the late 70s perhaps because her cataracts made her feel as though she needed a shoulder to lean on.  I am 28 and the author of Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman.  My sister Barbara, I suspect, is the photographer in this case.  By this time, MJ had begun to wear a blonde wig, much to the consternation of her daughter Faith.


Chronologies and Documents: Hartford Insurance Fire Company

Policy Number 4043 Stock Policy

In Consideration of the Stipulations herein named and of eight and zero dollars premium does insure B.B. Posey for the term of 3 years from the 1st day of August 1, 1906 at noon to the 1st day of August 1909, at noon, against all direct loss or damage by fire, except as hereinafter provided, To an amount not exceeding Three Hundred, Fifty and zero Dollars, to the following described property while located and contained as described herein, and not elsewhere, to wit:

Dwelling Form

$350 on the one story frame, shingle roof building and additions thereto, and fixtures for heating and lighting, as part of the building while occupied as a dwelling situate on west side of Peck Street at No. 203, Block 58, Sheet 13, of Sanborn's 1903 Insurance Map of Palatka, Florida.  Loss, if any, payable to East Florida Savings & Trust Company, Mortgages, as their interest may appear. 

To comply with the Act of the Legislature of the State of Florida regulating the issue of policies by Fire Insurance Companies, approved May 31, 1899, the insurable values of the buildings herein described are fixed at the following amounts: $350.00.

Lightning Clause. Electric Light Permit.  Kerosene Oil Stove Permit.  

G. Loper Bailey & Co. 
Fire Insurance.
Palatka, Florida.

In Witness Whereof, this Company has executed and attested these presents this 30th day of July 1906.  This Policy shall not be valid until Countersigned by the duly authorized Agent of the Company at Palatka, Florida.  Geo. L. Chase, President.

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