Freedom of Speech, 1990. Faith Ringgold. Acrylic and graphite on paper. Purchase, Gift of Hyman N. Glickstein, by exchange, 2001. © 2023 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy ACA Galleries, New York.
Since the 1960s Ringgold has used her art to address gender and racial issues in America and Europe. In Freedom of Speech—commissioned by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia as a poster design for a 1991 exhibition commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the Bill of Rights—Ringgold painted the words of the First Amendment, which protects the freedoms of speech, religious practice, peaceful assembly, and lawful redress of grievances, on the red stripes of the American flag. Over the stars and white stripes, she names individuals and groups who were perpetrators or victims of serious breaches of these freedoms, laying bare that across U.S. history, the country’s ideals put forth in the Bill of Rights and symbolized by the flag have not always been upheld by its government or its people.