Memorializing the Guardians of the First Amendment

by Jay Graham, FASLA

The ‘Guardians of the First Amendment’ Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland / image: © Allen Russ Photography, LLC

In 2018, a team from Moody Graham Landscape Architecture met with members of the Annapolis Caucus of African American Leaders after touring various sites around town that tell their story. We thought their story could be told in a more emphatic manner, and shared how landscape architects are skilled at telling community narratives within the physical environment. Our firm has a couple of local examples which they were familiar with, without knowing the designs were by landscape architects. They seemed to welcome our idea to help them.

A few months later, a tragedy occurred in our town when a gunman killed five journalists at the office of our local newspaper, the Capital Gazette. A group from the African-American Caucus, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, approached us to see if we could help design a memorial for the five journalists. That was the beginning of a two-and-a-half year engagement with many members of the Annapolis community.

The Design Process

The committee’s initial idea was to have images of the five slain journalists on a granite monument to be placed at a significant location in Annapolis. Moody Graham offered to have an in-house design charrette to generate design ideas. This effort was offered pro bono to give the committee something to use to attract community interest.

We generated nine concepts, which we shared with the committee and the Annapolis Art in Public Places Commission. We then met with leadership of the Baltimore Media Group, the owners of the Capital Gazette newspaper. At that meeting, the narrative behind the memorial took a more focused direction. We were told that journalists do not want to be the story. Journalists are part of the community. They are the guardians of freedom of the press, for the community.

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