A Monumental Journey

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Art Type
Media / Materials
Year Completed
Projected completion late Spring 2018
Commissioned by Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation
Latitude & Longitude
41.589397, -93.619668
Location Description
The project will be sited in downtown Des Moines’ Hansen Triangle Park. It is ideally located along the Principal Riverwalk at the corner of Grand & 2nd Avenues.


The project’s goal is to honor the National Bar Association founders: 12 courageous African-American attorneys who — in Des Moines, IA — changed the course of American history in 1925. At a time when the American Bar Association and other national legal associations denied membership to African-American lawyers, these attorneys created their own legal organization. By honoring these individuals, the project preserves local cultural history that has had great significance at the national and international levels.

The National Bar Association is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of predominately African American lawyers and judges representing the United States, Africa, England, Canada, and the Virgin Islands.

African American pioneer lawyers, dedicated to fight segregation and legal racism, started to gather between 1890 and 1900 and began the formation of the National Bar Association.

The ingenuity of these Midwestern lawyers changed the course of history. The National Bar Association was founded at an Iowa Colored Bar Association convention held in Des Moines in 1924. They incorporated one year later on August 1, 1925.

The five founders were Iowans. George H. Woodson, S. Joe Brown, Gertrude E. Rush, James B. Morris, and Charles P. Howard, Sr. The others, Wendell E. Green, C. Francis Stradford, Jesse N. Baker, William H. Haynes, and George C. Adams were from Chicago, and Charles H. Calloway, L. Amasa Knox from Kansas City.

A Monumental Journey

A Monumental Journey was inspired by the talking drum of West Africa. There African drummers communicated complex messages over vast distances by simply varying the pitch of the drum and using tone to mimic patterns of speech.

With the concept of one drum-form precariously stacked upon the other, the artist Kerry James Marshall has created a powerful physical and poetic expression. The large-scale sculpture embodies the notion of communication among diverse peoples and a legal system that — though not perfect — strives to be balanced.  The dimensions of A Monumental Journey are 30-ft high x 16-ft diameter; the cladding is manganese black brick.

Concept design at proposed site of Hansen Triangle Park.
Concept design at proposed site of Hansen Triangle Park.


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