Washington National Cathedral Unveils Racial Justice-Themed Stained-Glass Windows

Washington National Cathedral Unveils Racial Justice-Themed Stained-Glass Windows

The Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., unveiled a set of four new stained-glass windows on Saturday, each dedicated to the theme of racial justice. 

These new installations have replaced the previous windows, which had honored Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, CNN reported. The old windows, in place since 1953, were originally intended to promote reconciliation between the North and the South.

The new stained-glass windows, collectively titled “Now and Forever,” depict scenes of demonstrators participating in marches and protests. Among the demonstrators, some carry signs that read “Fairness” and “No Foul Play” as they move across the four windows. During the dedication ceremony, artist Kerry James Marshall, who designed the windows, emphasized that this change in symbolism aims to address a historical breach of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all.

The decision to replace the old windows was initiated in 2015 when then-Dean Gary Hall called for their removal following a tragic incident in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white man killed nine black churchgoers at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, the current dean, expressed the sentiment that the old windows were offensive and posed a barrier to the cathedral’s ministry. 

Artist Kerry James Marshall (L) shakes hands with Dean Hollerith (R) during an unveiling and dedication ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral for the new stained-glass windows with a theme of racial justice on September 23, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

“They told a false narrative, extolling two individuals who fought to keep the institution of slavery alive in this country,” Hollerith said. “They were intended to elevate the Confederacy, and they completely ignored the millions of Black Americans who have fought so hard and struggled so long to claim their birthright as equal citizens.”

Some of the old windows even featured Confederate flags, leading the cathedral’s leadership to vote in 2016 to remove those panels and replace them with plain glass. Ultimately, in 2017, the windows were removed after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulted in the death of a counter-protester.

Removal of confederate symbols and statues is nothing new, but now, in New York City, a bill has been proposed to remove all public statues of those that owned slaves, including a statute of President George Washington, Breitbart News reported

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