The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Joanna Blake, sculptor of the Battle of Bladensburg monument, dies at 39

Joanna Blake with a model of the Battle of Bladensburg Memorial in 2012. (Katherine Frey/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Joanna C. Blake, a figurative sculptor whose works include the memorial for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bladensburg in Maryland and relief panels honoring slaves buried at the Alexandria Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery in Virginia, died May 22 while vacationing in Italy. She died on her 39th birthday.

She was near Florence when she was thrown from the back of a motorcycle on which she was riding, said her husband, Ike Blake. Details of the multi-cycle accident are still under investigation, he said. She was a resident of Cottage City, in Prince George’s County, Md.

Since 2001, Mrs. Blake had been a sculptor affiliated with the Kaskey Studio in Brentwood, Md., and had done sculpting on the National World War II Memorial on the Mall.

Joanna Campbell was born in Mobile, Ala., on May 22, 1977, and graduated from Alabama’s Auburn University in 1999 with a degree in fine arts. She had done terra-cotta works on the Auburn campus and a 100-foot-long terra-cotta frieze for the performing arts center in Opelika, Ala.

For two years, she worked on the Battle of Bladensburg memorial, an 8-by-10-foot panel that shows a wounded and downed American Commodore Joshua Barney; Charles Ball, a former slave who served in Barney’s flotilla; and an unnamed Marine, all three figures looking up, weapons at their sides.

To the American side, the Battle of Bladensburg during the War of 1812 was a tactical defeat, but it "galvanized the nation," leading to the successful defense only weeks later of the port of Baltimore against British attack, Mrs. Blake told The Washington Post in 2013.

Resistance to the Royal navy’s bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry,” whose lyrics would later become the words to the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Mrs. Blake’s survivors include her husband, whom she married in 2000, and their daughter, Myra Agnes Blake, both of Cottage City; her parents, Alan and Joleen Campbell of Point Clear, Ala.; and a brother.

Read more Washington Post obituaries