WASHINGTON – Four years after removing stained glass in honor of two Confederate generals, officials at the National Cathedral in Washington said Wednesday that they had selected renowned black artist Kerry James Marshall to design his successor.

The artist attended church for the first time on Wednesday after being asked to heal minor wounds in the country’s second-largest cathedral. Together with the poet and writer Elizabeth Alexander, Mr. Marshall will design two stained-glass windows that address racial justice issues, in honor of Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

“Right now I don’t have a clear idea of ​​what I’m going to do,” he said. “This has to be a job that brings together the many thoughts and feelings that the country represents for all of us. There will be fantasies that emerge as invitations to reflect on the importance of America. ”

The decision to remove the window in 2017 preceded a debate that began in 2015 when a self-proclaimed white supremacist shot and killed nine African Americans in an episcopal church in Charleston, South Carolina, and more in 2017. when In Charlottesville, Virginia, protests broke out against the removal of a statue of white nationalist Lee. A protester in Zhenya died when one of the protesters drove his car into a crowd of protesters.

The windows have become a barrier so one feels really welcome here,” Reverend Randolph Cholerit, Dean of the Cathedral, said in an interview on Wednesday. “So we got to the point where relevance was no longer possible – but the window had to be moved from the sacred space.”

Marshall, who received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1997, received recognition for a major retrospective of his work which opened at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in 2016 and traveled to Met Breuer, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angelis. . He corrected his omissions from the Western art tradition and was known to paint mostly unpublished black figures.

This will be his first time working with stained glass for a cathedral. The installation will consist of four windows or lancets 6 feet long and 1.5 meters wide. He also plans to include figures for his cathedral.

“The windows will likely be shaped, some of them may be black, but I can’t say that’s all you’ll see there because I think the window area needs more detail,” he said.

In the summer of 2020, amid protests across the country following the police killing of George Floyd, the cathedral began working with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture to plan public displays from distant windows. Le Window will be on display at the museum this weekend.

Ms. Alexander – who will contribute a poem written on the tiles in Mr.’s window. Marshall – has visited the cathedral many times since growing up in Washington. He said he never looked in Lee and Jackson’s window. “But it is such a great gift from the progress of our society that we are now paying attention and wondering where something is and what it teaches us.”

And Washington’s National Cathedral has been asking that question for years. In the western part of the cathedral, its leaders have long paid attention to human rights activists. The stone carvings of Mother Teresa, Rosa Park and others are displayed there on the so-called Veranda of Human Rights. In April they paid tribute to Holocaust survivor author and Nobel Prize winner Eli Wiesel.

Dean Cholerit said the decision to remove the window was uncontested.

“But I’m very proud that we spent time talking about why windows were installed in the first place, what happened in 1953, and what Jackson and Lee’s legacy is,” he said. “The cathedral never ends.”

New Window and Poetry is expected to open in 2023.