On Saturday, the Washington National Cathedral will unveil two new stained-glass windows entitled “Now and Forever.” Per the Washingtonian, these set of windows will display the “exemplary dignity of the African American struggle for justice and equality and the indelible and progressive impact it has had on American society.”
World-renowned visual artist Kerry James Marshall was unanimously chosen to design the new windows. And his fee was only “$18.65 – a nod to the year the Civil War ended.” Even though Marshall had not worked with the medium before, he created the design and worked alongside Andrew Goldkuhle, an expert in stained glass whose father was the architect behind crafting over 60 of the windows already in the cathedral.
The limestone tablet below the two windows will display a poem from Elizabeth Alexander, the president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
In a press release, the current dean of the cathedral the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith said, “Windows that celebrated division are being replaced by windows extolling the pursuit of justice. The addition of these windows and the powerful words that accompany them allows us to tell a truer story of America, a story that confronts our past and invites all of us into a more inclusive and hopeful future.”
As part of the unveiling, the festivities, which are all free, will begin with a public dedication that you can also watch via livestream, which will feature remarks from “Marshall and a special reading of ‘American Song’ by acclaimed poet Elizabeth Alexander,” according to the website.
The old stained-glass windows were a donation from the United Daughters of the confederacy and had been in place since their 1953 installation. They featured Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson in addition to a Confederate flag. The cathedral’s chief public affairs officer Kevin Eckstrom said that the stone tablets underneath the windows “basically made the [Confederate generals] into Christian saints.”
Calls for removal first originated in 2015 after the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church racially motivated shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
But it wasn’t until 2017 after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a driver drove into “a crowd of pedestrians in an attack that killed a 32-year-old woman and injured 19 others,” as ABC News reports, that a task force was assembled to consider a new direction.
In the aftermath of the deadly rally, Washington National Cathedral announced that they would be removing two “windows, which were located on the southern face of the main worship space,” wrote CBS.
At that time, Cathedral Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde said the previously installed Lee-Jackson windows were “inconsistent” with the mission of the cathedral as well as a “barrier to our important work on racial justice and racial reconciliation.” The new windows would be an effort on the part of the cathedral to “tell the truth,” about our country’s history.
Several church leaders concurred with this sentiment, writing “Their association with racial oppression, human subjugation and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of this cathedral.”