Kerry James Marshall has been tapped to design new windows for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., church officials announced. The previous windows, which had been donated by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1953, honored the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
In 2015, the windows became a point of contention. Two years later, in 2017, the National Cathedral decided to remove the two stained glass windows honoring Lee and Jackson. At the time, nine people had just been murdered in a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, by the white supremacist Dylann Roof. The shooting prompted church leaders to think deeply about the presence of Confederate symbols in the National Cathedral.
“Right now I don’t have a clear concept of what I think I will do,” Marshall told the New York Times. “It will have to be work that is able to synthesize a multiplicity of ideas and sentiments about what the country represents for all of us. There will be some kind of imagery that presents itself as an invitation to reflection on the meaning of America now.”
Marshall is a preeminent contemporary artist well known for his engagement with social justice, Black portraiture, and American history. In 2020, Marshall’s work was featured on the cover of Vogue’s September 2020 issue.
In 2018, Marshall vowed to never make public artwork again after the city of Chicago attempted to sell his mural Knowledge and Power (1995), which he had painted for the Chicago Public Library. Though the city reversed its choice to sell the work, Marshall remained disillusioned—until now.
This project represents the first time Marshall has worked with stained glass. He is collaborating with the poet Elizabeth Alexander, who will write a poem to be installed in stone tablets alongside the windows. The new windows are expected to be unveiled in 2023.