Faith Ringgold made her first quilt, Echoes of Harlem, with her mother, Madame Willi Posey, in 1980. She was inspired to pursue quiltmaking as a vehicle for her art after hearing her mother’s stories of their ancestors, who were slaves trained to make quilts on their plantation. By 1990, the year of her residency at FWM, Ringgold had completed a second quilt, Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima?, her first story quilt incorporating both text and image. Her FWM quilt, Tar Beach 2, tells the story of a young African American girl who grows up in Harlem, spending her time outdoors on the rooftops of her urban landscape. The narrative is told through text and image, which are printed with dyes on silk duppioni. Ringgold chose a variety of decorative fabrics to border the quilts, making each quilt in the edition of 24 unique.
In 1991, Ringgold published Tar Beach as a children’s book (Crown Publishers). It has won over twenty awards, including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for best illustrated children’s book in 1991. Ringgold has since gone on to write other children’s books, including Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky (Crown Publishers, 1992) and Dinner at Aunt Connie’s (Hyperion Books, 1993).