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The inspiring stained glass windows at Washington National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral has unveiled new stained glass windows dedicated to the theme of racial justice. These windows replaced four previous ones that honored Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The new windows depict a march for justice by African Americans, emphasizing the descendants of those who would have remained in slavery if the Confederate side had won the Civil War.

The old windows were removed due to their association with Confederate symbols and racist violence. It was prompted by their association with the Charleston church shooting in 2015 and the Charlottesville rally in 2017.

The dedication service was attended by clergy from historically Black churches, social justice leaders, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, who read excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The new windows are titled “Now and Forever” and are designed by artist Kerry James Marshall. They show African Americans marching with signs proclaiming “FAIRNESS” and “NO FOUL PLAY.” The removal of the old windows and installation of the new ones are part of a broader discussion about racism’s legacy and how monuments were used to glorify the Confederacy’s “Lost Cause.”

The new windows will also feature a poem by scholar Elizabeth Alexander, engraved beneath them, emphasizing the importance of telling the truth about history and bringing light into the community. The cathedral aims to be a space of prayer for all and is committed to addressing ongoing work related to racial justice.

Associated Press reports:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” she read from King’s famed message while jailed in Alabama. “The goal of America is freedom. … We will win our freedom.” A week earlier, she had spoken at the 60th anniversary of Birmingham church bombing that killed four young Black girls.

The new windows, titled “Now and Forever,” are based on a design by artist Kerry James Marshall. Stained glass artisan Andrew Goldkuhle crafted the windows based on that design.

In the new work, African Americans are shown marching — on foot or in a wheelchair — from left to right across the four windows. Some march in profile; some directly face the viewer with signs proclaiming “FAIRNESS” and “NO FOUL PLAY.” Light floods in through the sky-bright panes of white and blue above the figures.

Marshall, who was born in Birmingham in 1955, invited anyone viewing the new windows, or other artworks inspired by social justice, “to imagine oneself as a subject and an author of a never-ending story is that is still yet to be told.”

The setting is particularly significant in the massive neo-Gothic cathedral, which regularly hosts ceremonies tied to major national events. It is filled with iconography depicting the American story in glass, stone and other media. Images range from presidents to famous cultural figures and state symbols.

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