Barbara Chase-Riboud

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Writer, Sculptor

Barbara Chase-Riboud is a trailblazing artist and writer.

Born in 1929, she grew up in a middle-class black neighborhood

near downtown Philadelphia. Her grandmother, the

head of the household, was determined that Chase-Riboud

should have the same well-rounded education available to

any child in America and insisted that she take art and dance

classes. Chase-Riboud’s parents both possessed artistic talent.

Her father was rejected from architecture school because of

his color and abandoned painting to run the family’s construction

business, while her mother discovered her ability as

a fiber artist only in retirement.

Chase-Riboud began her formal art studies at the age of

seven at the Fletcher Art Memorial School and the Philadelphia

Museum of Art, where it became evident that she was a

prodigy. Although she was the only black child in her classes,

she never felt out of place. She continued her training at

the Philadelphia High School for Girls, received a BFA at the

Tyler School of Art and Design, and went to the American

Academy in Rome on a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. On her

return, she attended Yale University on scholarship.

Chase-Riboud has achieved success in a wide variety of

artistic areas. She was invited to the People’s Republic of

China, where she met with Chou en Lai and was invited to

a state dinner with Mao Zedong. She wrote the “Chinese”

poems after that visit. She went on to exhibit her memorial

sculpture to Malcolm X at the Massachusetts Institute of

Technology and began writing a novel, Sally Hemings, which

was later acquired and edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The novel, received international acclaim and won her the

J.H. Kafka prize for a novel written by an American woman.

She also was commissioned by the U.S. General Services