Addressing racism in the 21st century often means confronting uncomfortable reminders of America’s history of slavery. The Washington National Cathedral is taking steps to confront its own legacy of oppression with the removal of stained glass depicting Confederate figures. The glass will be replaced with art featuring racial justice-themed imagery created by renowned American artist Kerry James Marshall.
In addition to the replacement of the stained glass, the Cathedral will also replace stone tablets which revere the lives of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson with a poem by Dr. Elizabeth Alexander. Both projects are expected to be completed in 2023.
The windows were originally removed in 2017, but placeholder glass sat in the frame until Cathedral officials made a decision on what artwork would replace them. The pane depicting Robert E. Lee is on loan to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In a press release from the Cathedral, Marshall said, “The themes that the Cathedral committee articulated set a great challenge for me as an artist and as a Black American man. The goal is to make truly meaningful additions to an already rich and magnificent institution, to make the changes they have embraced truly worth the effort.”