A new sculpture on the capitol complex in Des Moines west of the judicial building will highlight an early legal decision in the state.
Robert Bailey of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services describes the sculpture.
He says it’s called “Shattering Silence’ and was designed by Des Moines artist James Ellwanger to commemorate Iowa’s history in civil rights leadership based on the territory’s first Supreme Court ruling.
Bailey says it tells the story of a former slave named Ralph Montgomery who had negotiated for his freedom from a man in Missouri by promising to pay the man $550.
Montgomery traveled to Dubuque to work in the lead mines near Dubuque, but after two years, failed to earn the money and two bounty hunters came to take him back to Missouri. A local farmer stopped them and took them to local magistrate, Thomas Wilson. Wilson also served on the three-judge territorial Supreme Court, which decided to hear the case. The court ruled in Montgomery’s favor.
Bailey says the sculpture is in the progress of being put together. Bailey says it is made of a combination of native stone and polished stainless steel. He says the sculpture top almost looks like a windmill, but he sees it as a rock, breaking up a mirror. The sculpture is tentatively set to be dedicated in mid-September.