Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

Synopsis

Mary Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams tells the little-known story of Thurgood Marshall's work with Kenyan leaders as they fought with the British for independence in the early 1960s. Not long after he led the legal team in Brown v. Board of Education, Marshall aided Kenya's constitutional negotiations, as adversaries battled over rights and land--not with weapons, but with legal arguments. Set in the context of Marshall's civil rights work in the United States, this transnational history sheds light on legal reform and social change in the midst of violent upheavals in Africa and America. While the struggle for rights on both continents played out on a global stage, it was a deeply personal journey for Marshall. Even as his belief in the equalizing power of law was challenged during his career as a Supreme Court justice, and in Kenya the new government sacrificed the rights he cherished, Kenya's founding moment remained for him a time and place when all things had seemed possible.

Excerpt

Africa is the birthplace of the blackman, but his home is in the
world.

—Tom Mboya, 1969

IT WAS JANUARY 1960, BUT IT WAS SUMMER. An American lawyer arrived in a new land, but he called it his home.

Thurgood Marshall had grown up with family legends about his strong Congo forbears, about a grandfather so ornery as to lead a frustrated slave master to release him. But the Africa his family had been stolen from was something of a mystery, until that January when Thurgood Marshall went home.

Marshall was a civil rights legend in America when he began his African journey. It became one of the great adventures of his life. He followed a path well worn by others, but his journey would be different. He would not travel by riverboat into the Congo, as had American missionaries, or sail along the West African coast as did the poet Langston Hughes. Marshall flew first to Monrovia, then on to Nairobi. He was in search not of souls to save or stories to tell. Instead, Africa was . . .

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