In Washington, D.C., the National Cathedral has commissioned world-renowned artist Kerry James Marshall to design new stained-glass windows that will address the concept of racial justice.
For the Cathedral, the artist will reimagine the space previously occupied by two stained glass windows that honored Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. These windows and their Confederate imagery told an incomplete story. The windows celebrated two generals, but they did nothing to address the reality and painful legacy of slavery and racism. For the Cathedral, the windows represented a false narrative of what America once was and left out the painful truth of our history. The Cathedral’s stated desire for new windows is to “capture both darkness and light, both the pain of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow, as well as the quiet and exemplary dignity of the African American struggle for justice and equality and the indelible and progressive impact it has had on American society.”
For Marshall, “it’s kind of a calling, and a real honor to be asked.” Together with the poet and author Elizabeth Alexander, Marshal will address this complicated narrative. In this new era of reckoning, these amazing and creative people will help engage the public with this revisioned space and with confronting our history of racial injustice.
Marshall will created four window sections (approximately H. 6 feet by W. 1.5 feet).
The new windows and the poem are expected to be unveiled in 2023.
Strengthening Marshall’s Connection to Des Moines
Marshall was commissioned by the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation to create “A Monumental Journey” for a city park. “A Monumental Journey” is located along the Principal Riverwalk at the corner of Grand & 2nd Avenues in Hansen Triangle Park.
Installed in 2018, his colossal sculpture is a testament to the legacy of the African American attorneys who founded the National Bar Association in Des Moines, Iowa in 1925. A new U.S. Courthouse is being built across the street — the juxtaposition emphasizes the concept of justice, durability, and tenacity.
In 2019, Americans for the Arts honored Marshall’s “A Monumental Journey” among the 50 most compelling public art projects in North America.