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: 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.

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