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Rare book now on display in Stauffer Library

By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Artist and activist Faith Ringgold has spread a message of social justice, community building and peace throughout the world, and now Queen’s can enjoy a piece of her legacy thanks to a special gift she gave during her recent visit to campus.

Professor Ringgold visited Queen’s in September to give the keynote address at the 20th anniversary celebrations for the Queen’s Human Rights Office. As a token of appreciation, she gave HRO advisor Stephanie Simpson a copy of Letter From Birmingham City Jail published by the Limited Editions Club of New York.

Stephanie Simpson wants the public to learn from Faith Ringgold's book.

The renowned Letter was originally written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 and was illustrated for the LEC by Ms. Ringgold in 2008. There are only 420 copies of the book in the world, and its estimated value is over $5,000. Ms. Ringgold’s gift comes from her own private collection.

“It is an incredible honour,” says Ms. Simpson, who explains Ms. Ringgold gave her the book over breakfast during her stay in Kingston. “The book club publisher actually had to approach the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. to obtain permission to illustrate the book. It’s rare they would allow this.”

Letter From Birmingham City Jail features eight serigraph prints by Ms. Ringgold. The prints illustrate the struggles of African Americans during the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s call for a new model of democracy and equality. The book is bound in red linen and printed on handmade paper.

Upon receiving the book, Ms. Simpson didn’t hesitate; she contacted librarian Barbara Teatero about displaying the book in Stauffer Library.

“Ms. Ringgold’s legacy of social activism is important, and is something everyone should have the opportunity to learn about. I want the book to be used as a discussion point at Queen’s and in the community,” says Ms. Simpson.

The book is now on display on the ground floor of Stauffer Library in front of the circulation desk.

On Tuesday February 25, Ms. Simpson will give a lunch-hour talk in the library with Prof. Barrington Walker (History) on the theme “Outside agitators:  Black North American civil rights activism and the Canadian response.”