Her early artwork is composed with flat figures and shapes. She has also devoted her time in building up an organizations such as “Where We At” that supports African American women artists.
In 1973, she quits her teaching profession at the public school, where she used to teach students the importance of an art and the significance of creating an art, in order to devote her full-time to create her own art. Some of her best known works in art history which exemplify her Black Feminist politics include The Black Light Series: Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger, and American People Series: Echoes of Harlem.Similar to Cox’s artwork, Ringgold’s artwork also contained strong themes of identity and women’s strength.
She has always been an enthusiastic participant in the black activist community and in the feminist movement from the 1970’s onward. In 1963, she began a series of 20 paintings called “The American People Series,” which portrayed conflict between white and black people. In American People Series, art #20: Die was made in 1967, oil on canvas, two panels with dimensions 72 × 144″ (182.9 x 365.8 cm). In a style that Ringgold called “super realism,” this work depicts the race riots of the 1960s in America as a melee of random violence. In her artwork, the adults both African Americans and whites, seem to be injured, fighting or fleeing. While an African American girl and a white boy gather together in the center of the canvas, mounted by the shot bodies of an African American man and a white woman.
The violence presented in the art contrasts with the stylish aspects of the figures; the men in black pants and white shirts and the women in a fashionable dresses and high heels.The black and white color of the men’s clothing visually stresses that racism is the origin of the violence, and the well – dressed appearance convey that no class of society was left out. This painting has a mixture of Ringgold’s knowledge of artistic style combined with her experience of the violence generated by racism and her fear that racial violence would become more and more domestic.There was a lot of impulsive rioting and fighting on the street along with undocumented number of deaths of African – American people due to racism. Finggold in her art shows the viewer a kind of abstraction of what the fights were really all about and its consequences.
They were fighting for their position in life in America to be retained. It is clearly seen in the picture that there’s people who have already attacked somebody, and they’re trying to defeat them down. And then there’s people looking for somebody, running after one another and screaming and carrying on against that background.
While those squares can be interpreted as the walkway which basically was the background of a riot as everybody is going to fall down on the ground in the end. Women who came with their children are very important because they are going to protect their children irrespective of the fight. The children in the center, moved toward each other even though they do not know each other and are trying to help each other. They are the innocent victims in this brutal racial fight. These work is intended not only to address the tense race relations of the moment when it was made but also to express the artist’s fear that racial violence would continue to intensify in the future.”Influenced by both Picasso’s Guernica and the depiction of race riots in Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration Series, Ringgold also intended to depict the racial turmoil following the Civil Rights movement.” As an African American woman, she also wanted to respond to the societal expectations of women.
Instead of the traditional flag that the American astronauts planted on the surface of the moon, Ringgold portrays the Flag for the Moon: Die Nigger, 1969, oil on canvas, dimensions 36 x 50″, from The Black Light Series, with some editorial revisions. There is the word DIE in black color inscribed among the gray stars, and has broken and changed the stripes, so that the white stripes read “nigger.” Though portrayed in capital letters, it is surprisingly artful and coded into the pattern.
But the message was clear, testifying to a reality of undergoing intolerance and racism which is still visible in the frame of our society. Irregular gray and red stripes suggest an alternative ideal image for another America, perhaps the first one focuses on a mass scale during the civil rights movement with the help of the newly established universality of television and media. Ringgold’s stars and stripes distorts the image and narrative of national harmony and challenges America’s superiority in maintaining a legacy of colonization.
All these early works remain relevant as a proof of the struggle and triumph of her fight to claim difference and individual identity as both a dignity and a form of resistance to the amalgamation of artistic discourse.Similarly, in her other artwork, American People Series #18: The Flag is Bleeding, 1967, oil on canvas, 72 x 96 inches, monumental six-by eight-foot painting, Ringgold overlapped a display of the United States flag on three interlinked figures. Ringgold assigned the flag with 48 stars rather than 50 stars as she liked the visual regularity and the balance of the former.