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Ruby C. Williams (b. 1920s)


Ruby Williams "I am a Sophisticated Person"

     Native to Bealsville, a traditional and historic African American town in Hillsborough County, Florida, Ruby C. Williams is well known for her brightly painted folk art. It is sold alongside fruits and vegetables, such as black-eyed peas, strawberries, watermelons, and colared greens, at the self-built market located on her property. Originally, Bealsville was founded by five freed slaves, one of them being Mary Reddick, Williams’ great-grandmother. As a result, Williams has a deep sense of attachment to the land she works with.

Ruby Williams: Bonnie Bonn Bonnie Doll

    The loving connection she has to family is extremely important to Williams, as she is keenly aware of the unbroken link of relatives working the land and making a living from the fruit trees. Williams’ art is also attached to this lineage. In order to make her small farm work, she opened a produce stand. In order to make the produce stand a success, she painted signs to attract visitors.


     Williams is an artist in charge of her life, and this fact is apparent in her strong and determined values that center on hard work, problem solving, close family ties and a strong religious grounding. Ruby Williams believes she was put on this earth to heal and minister through her produce, her artwork and her community space. Her work is in private collections and galleries all over the world. But even today, she seems as interested in selling produce as she does in selling art.

Text: Kristin Congdon
Edited for web by: J.B.

Ruby Williams working at her fruit and vegetable stand

Designed by the University of Central Florida’s Heritage Alliance in the Zora Neale Hurston Institute for Documentary Studies, School of Film and Digital Media and the Texts & Technology Ph.D. Program.

Florida Humanities CouncilNational Endowment for the ArtsUniversity of Central Florida