We Flew over the Bridge

The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold

We Flew over the Bridge

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 40 color illus., 101 b&w illus. Published: March 2005

Author: Faith Ringgold

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Art and Visual Culture > Feminist Art, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In We Flew over the Bridge, one of the country’s preeminent African American artists—and award-winning children’s book authors—shares the fascinating story of her life. Faith Ringgold’s artworks—startling “story quilts,” politically charged paintings, and more—hang in the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and other major museums around the world, as well as in the private collections of Maya Angelou, Bill Cosby, and Oprah Winfrey. Her children’s books, including the Caldecott Honor Book Tar Beach, have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But Ringgold’s path to success has not been easy. In this gorgeously illustrated memoir, she looks back and shares the story of her struggles, growth, and triumphs. Ringgold recollects how she had to surmount a wall of prejudices as she worked to refine her artistic vision and raise a family. At the same time, the story she tells is one of warm family memories and sustaining friendships, community involvement, and hope for the future.


“This story told in numerous engaging family photos, art work reproductions and lore, is now getting a much-deserved, broader distribution. The story artist Faith Ringgold tells is one of warm family relations, sustaining friendships, and the challenge of overcoming prejudices. The book also is a visual chronicle of African American fashion and style.” — International Review of African American Art

“Ringgold provides juicy autobiographical stories, supplemented with personal photographs as well as ample illustrations and descriptions of her work. It is a memoir every artist should read. . . . The book is informative, forthright, and fun, and is a great teaching tool for both emerging and established artists.” — Joyce Owens Anderson, Journal of African American History

"[O]ne of the country's most preeminent African-American artists and award-winning children's book authors, shares the fascinating story of her life, complete with family pictures." — Ebony

"[P]art cultural history, part coming-of-age story, part romance and part portrait of perseverance. . . ." — Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Essence

"A memoir is revealing on two levels: since it’s selective remembering, what the author chooses to tell us about herself ends up telling us something additional. We Flew Over the Bridge is candid, sometimes humorous, sometimes bordering on bitter, and almost quilt-like as she pieces together a wide range of topics, from the intensely personal to political and professional. Harlem at the close of the Renaissance, the art world’s resistance to nonwhite artists, Black Power’s resistance to feminism, combining marital life and parenthood with a career—all are viewed through her unique lens." — Gerri Gribi, AfroAmericanHeritage.com

“In words that are as direct, honest, full of color and life as her paintings, Ringgold gives each reader the greatest gift of all—courage to be one’s own unique and universal self.” — Gloria Steinem

“The story of Ringgold’s triumph—achieved through sheer determination, savvy, and self-conviction—is both accessible and inspiring.” — Lowery Stokes Sims, executive director, the Studio Museum in Harlem

“Bridging is the major motif of Ringgold’s life. . . . She is a bridge between the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights era. She is a bridge between her mother’s applied art of fashion design and her own fine art of painting and story quilts. She is a bridge between the black power movement and the women’s movement. And she is a bridge between the abstract art that dominated the ‘60s and the issue-oriented art that connected with viewers’ hearts—and lives.” — Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Faith Ringgold has already won my heart as an artist, as a woman, as an African American, and now with her entry into the world of autobiography (where I dwell), she has taken my heart again. She writes so beautifully.” — Maya Angelou

“Faith Ringgold has created a rich and highly informative work not only of her own life as an American in general but as an African American in particular. These memoirs are a part of American history—of what it means to be an artist, a writer, and a philosopher in our society.” — Jacob Lawrence

“Faith Ringgold’s exuberant and original art has made her one of America’s more important artists and a feminist heroine. Now her wonderfully honest memoirs will resonate with all political and creative women who are still fighting the battles Ringgold has won.” — Lucy Lippard, author of The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Faith Ringgold was born in Harlem in 1930. She began painting more than forty years ago, and has exhibited in museums in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In addition to Tar Beach, the children’s books she has written and illustrated include Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky, If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, and My Dream of Martin Luther King. Ringgold has received more than seventy-five awards, fellowships, citations, and honors, including seventeen honorary doctorates. She lives in Englewood, New Jersey.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface xi
Part I: Harlem Born and Bred
1. From the Cradle to the Classroom in the 1930s  3
2. Growing Up on Sugar Hill in the 1940s  25
Part II: Men, Marriage, and Motherhood
3. Men and Marriage in the 1950s and 1960s  39
4. My Mother Was Perfect, or So She Said  67
5. Parental Politics: My Daughters and Me  81
Color Plates  97
Part III: Making Art, Making Waves, and Making Money
6. A European Trip Ends with a Death in the Family  131
7. The 1960s: Is There a Black Art?  143
8. The End of the 1960s: Out of the Studio and into the Streets  165
9. The 1970s: Is There a Women's Art?  173
10. Teaching Art: Those Who Can Should  217
11. We Flew over the Bridge: Performance Art, Story Quilts, and Tar Beach  237
Appendix: Matisse's Chapel  273
Faith Ringgold Chronology  275
Public and Private Collections  283
Index  285
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3564-1