Stained-glass windows tell story of civil rights struggle
text and photos by John Gordon
Retired from the classroom, Jean Lacy now uses colorful slivers of glass, instead of chalk, for her lessons.
“Windows of Our Heritage,” the 53 stained-glass windows surrounding the sanctuary at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas, is the largest project for the United Methodist artist. The windows show both traditional biblical scenes and chronicle African-American history and the civil rights movement.
“I wanted to really not go the traditional route,” said the 72-year-old artist, who works from her home in Dallas. “I think it’s important for people to see their history, not only in terms of ancient history, but also contemporary, and I wanted them to see themselves in these windows.”
Leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman are depicted. The windows also deal with subjects such as school busing and segregated lunch counters.
One of the windows, “No Room at the Inn,” both alludes to Jesus’ birth and comments on segregated housing.
“We have a mother and her child — if you want to say that’s Mary and Christ, all right,” Lacy explained. “And then there’s a policeman here, and actually it’s saying that you can’t stay in this particular apartment house, there’s no room for you.”
She spent six months doing research and designing the windows.
“These windows really are for the children,” Lacy said. “If you don’t know your own history, and if you don’t know who you are as a person, as a part of a unique culture as well as a part of the world, than there’s no way that you can survive as a person.”
She added that the windows are important because schools have “failed miserably” in teaching African-American history.
“They just talk to me in a way,” said William Edwards, a sixth-grader. “They tell all the hard work that people in the past have been through to get us where we are today.”
“Some of the pictures told me things I really didn’t know,” said Jenae Brent, a seventh-grader at St. Luke. “It says that we’ve been through a lot. We’ve been through too much to give up now.”
—Adapted from a United Methodist News Service story by John Gordon, freelance producer and writer, Marshall, Texas. Link to a video production of this story here.