Freedom of Speech: Faith Ringgold


Students will consider what freedoms they have as individuals. They will look at Freedom of Speech by Faith Ringgold and consider the piece as it relates to American culture of that time, and its relevance to the current time. A class discussion will allow students to talk about the process and interpretation of a work of art. They will also look closely at the objects and clues in the work in order to decode stories that are relevant to American history.  The students will then create a poster that visually depicts their response to freedom of speech.

 Five 50 minute class periods: Class 1- Presentation, and Think Sheet; 2 – Drafting, revision; 3-5 Work to complete illustration and class critique

Enduring Understandings/Essential Questions:

  1. Faith Ringgold creates artwork that tells stories of the struggle of African Americans have faced in the United States. Beginning in the 1960s and throughout her career, her art has carried strong messages about the race, the civil rights movement, and feminism in society.
  2. The elements of art are building blocks used to create a work of art. The principles of design describe the way artists use the elements of art within their artwork. By analyzing the elements and principles, students may decode visual meaning and the intention of the artist.
  3. Factors of time and place influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.
    • How do the visual stories Faith Ringgold tells relate to history?
    • How were the elements and principles of design used in Faith Ringgold’s work?
    • How might you express yourself through creative means to explain your thoughts on the freedoms you have?


Four Freedoms
Five 50 minute periods


  • Students will view and analyze the composition, and the design elements and principles of Freedom of Speech by Faith Ringgold
  • Students will identify the historical and cultural events of the time that are reflected in the artwork..
  • Students will brainstorm ideas, complete a Faith Ringgold: Freedom of Speech Poster Design Think Sheet (5-8) and create a work of art focused on the theme of freedom that demonstrates an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates to the media, techniques and processes they use.


Faith Ringgold was born the youngest of three children on October 8, 1930, in New York City. Her parents, Andrew Louis Jones and Willi Posey Jones, descended from working-class families displaced by the Great Migration. Her mother was a fashion designer and father an avid storyteller, and Ringgold was raised in an environment that encouraged her creativity. In Harlem, musicians, authors, and artists such as Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes lived just around the corner from her home. Her childhood friend, Sonny Rollins, who would later become a prominent jazz musician, often visited her family and practiced his saxophone at their parties. Because of her chronic asthma, Ringgold explored visual art as a major pastime through the support of her mother, often experimenting with crayons as a young girl. In a statement she later made about her youth, she said, “I grew up in Harlem during the Great Depression. This did not mean I was poor and oppressed. We were protected from oppression and surrounded by a loving family.” With all of these influences combined, Ringgold’s future artwork was greatly affected by the people, poetry, and music she experienced in her childhood, as well as the racism, sexism, and segregation she dealt with in her everyday life. Faith uses a variety of techniques to create her artwork including painting and even quilting. These pieces incorporate words and symbols. Some of her works are autobiographical.


Multimedia Resources

Freedom of Speech by Faith Ringgold

Classroom Supplies:

  • Reproduction of Freedom of Speech, by Faith Ringgold
  • Large easel with paper pad and pen, or board to record brainstorming ideas on
  • Worksheet: Faith Ringgold: Freedom of Speech Poster Design Think Sheet (5-8)

Suggested resources by or about Faith Ringgold include but are not limited to:

  • We Came to America by Faith Ringgold
  • Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold
  • Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
  •  Getting to Know the  World's Greatest Artists: Faith Ringgold by Mike Venezia
  • We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold by Faith Ringgold


Class One

  1. A reproduction of Freedom of Speech by Faith Ringgold will be posted in a central location so that all students can see the image.
  2. Ask students if they have seen the image before. Have students look closely at the foreground, the middle ground, and the background pointing out what they see, not what they can infer. The class will collectively take a visual inventory. As each student contributes, restate their observation. You might be able to elaborate on what they have said to add more visual detail or you might ask them for clarification. Encourage them to look more closely and carefully. By doing this, the students will analyze the work and find clues and symbols to help read the visual image, revealing Faith Ringgold’s use of words and symbols to reflect American culture of the time.
  3. 3. Ask the students if anyone can associate Ringgold’s art with issues or events in American culture and history. Discuss the civil rights movement and the Bill of Rights, allowing for personal interpretations as well as historically accurate information.
  4.  Distribute the handout of Faith Ringgold: Freedom of Speech Poster Design Think Sheet (5-8.) Read the information about Faith Ringgold aloud. It is important to take time to review any words that the students may not understand.
  5. Ask students to brainstorm together a list of ways they may exercise their freedom of speech. Record a list on easel paper or a board; the list will be a starting point for students to begin thinking about a poster design of their own.
  6. Ask the students to begin a worksheet articulating their ideas. At your discretion, students may work individually, in partners or as a class on the worksheet.

Class 2

  1. Allow students ten minutes to develop a sketch of their poster idea. Ask students to consider what media/technique would best emphasize the message they are trying to convey in their poster. Student should gather needed materials and media to begin their project when they have completed the planning phase.  Throughout the project, circulate around the room, encouraging the students to express their thoughts and ideas, and offering help or feedback when appropriate.
  2. Bring students back to a group discussion for the last 10 minutes of class to share their ideas with the class. During this discussion, students have the opportunity to receive additional suggestions about ways they may make their message clear. Each student will be asked to explain their ideas and the media they feel is best suited for their poster.

Classes 3-5

  1.  Up to three more classes can be allotted to the completion of the student posters. Conclude the project by having students present their posters during a group critique. Students will be asked to present their project and explain their design and color choices. Once an artist has spoken, comments from classmates will be allowed. Comments should be given in a respectful manner, demonstrate critical thoughts and be relevant to the project. Comments may address composition, medium, technique, process and the overall message.


  • Students will be evaluated on their participation in the discussion (informal checks of understanding through questions) and completion of Faith Ringgold: Freedom of Speech Poster Design Think Sheet (5-8).
  • Students will confer with their peers and the instructor upon completion of the thumbnail sketch and Think Sheet for feedback, suggestions and consider any revisions before moving on to begin the final illustration.
  • Students will select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective in communicating their ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices.
  • Students will analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place (history and culture) influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.
  • Students will participate in a group critique, then prepare and hang their illustration for display.


This curriculum meets the standards listed below. Look for more details on these standards please visit: ELA and Math StandardsSocial Studies Standards, Visual Arts Standards.

Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.
Analyze how art reflects changing times, traditions, resources, and cultural uses.
Analyze how response to art is influenced by understanding the time and place in which it was created, the available resources, and cultural uses.
Distinguish different ways art is used to represent, establish, reinforce, and reflect group identity.
Identify and demonstrate diverse methods of artistic investigation to choose an approach for beginning a work of art.
Formulate an artistic investigation of personally relevant content for creating art.
Develop criteria to guide making a work of art or design meet an identified goal.
Collaboratively shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present-daylife using a contemporary practice of art and design.
Experiment and develop skills in multiple art-making techniques and approaches through practice.
Demonstrate openness in trying new ideas, materials, methods, and approaches in making works of art and design.
Demonstrate persistance in developing skills with various materials, methods, and approaches in creating works of art or design.
Demonstrate willingness to experiment, innovate, and take risks to pursue ideas, forms, and meanings that emerge in the process of art-making or designing.
Demonstrate quality craftmanship through care and use of materials, tools, and equipment.
Explain environmental implications of conservation, care, and use of art materials, tools, and equipment.
Demonstrate awareness of ethical responsibility to oneself and others when posting and sharing images and other materials through the internet, social media, and other communication formats.
Demonstrate awareness of practices, issues, and ethics of appropriation, fair use, copyright, open source, and creative commons as they apply to creating works of art and design.
Create artist statements using art vocabulary to describe personal choices in art-making.
Reflect on whether personal artwork conveys the intended meanings and revise accordingly.
Reflect on and explain important information about personal artwork in an artist statement or another form.
Apply relevant criteria to examine, reflect on, and plan revisions for a work of art or design in progress.
Develop a logical argument for safe and effective use of materials and techniques for preparing and presenting work.
Individually or collaboratively, develop a visual plan for displaying works of art, analyzing exhibit space, the needs of the viewer, and the layout of the exhibit.
Based on criteria, analyze methods for preparing and presenting art.
Collaboratively prepare and present selected theme-based artwork for display, and formulate exhibition narratives for the viewer.
Compare one's own interpretation of a work of art with the interpretation of others..
Identify and interpret works of art or design that reveal how people live around the world and what they value.
Explain how the method of display, the location, and the experience of an artwork influence how it is perceived and valued.
Explain how a person's aesthetic choices are influenced by culture and environment impact the visual image that one conveys to others.