National Cathedral to replace Confederate-themed stained glass

In 1953, after 22 years of efforts to erect a memorial to Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, the United Daughters of the Confederacy completed the work. The tribute took the form of a set of four stained glass windows depicting Lee, his colleague General Stonewall Jackson and other Confederate-themed images (Confederate flag included).

The work more or less went unnoticed until 2015, when a white supremacist murdered nine black worshipers in Charleston, South Carolina, urging members of the National Cathedral clergy to consider removing the windows. The task force created to rule on the matter initially decided to keep them, arguing that they would “serve as a deep witness to the cathedral’s own complex race-related history” and “provide a catalyst for honest discussions about race and the legacy of slavery and for addressing uncomfortable and too often avoided race issues in America ” [PDF].

The force pledged to revisit the matter in two years, which it did: picked up the confederate windows. Over the past four years, plywood has taken their place.

Now like The Washington Post reports, the church has finally announced its intention to fill the void with stained glass windows designed by Kerry James Marshall, an internationally renowned painter known to capture the experience of black people in America. It will be the first time that Marshall has worked with stained glass as a medium. According to a Press release, the cathedral’s goal for the new facility is to convey “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.

The cathedral also commissioned Elizabeth Alexander, Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural poet and current President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to compose a poem that will be inscribed on stone tablets near Marshall’s windows. (The two artists had been friends for three decades.)

As for when you can expect to see the new additions, that will be in a few years – they should be completed sometime in 2023.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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