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Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey
     

Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

by Mary L. Dudziak
 

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Thurgood Marshall became a living icon of civil rights when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Six years later, he was at a crossroads. A rising generation of activists were making sit-ins and demonstrations rather than lawsuits the hallmark of the civil rights movement. What role, he wondered, could he now play? When in

Overview

Thurgood Marshall became a living icon of civil rights when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Six years later, he was at a crossroads. A rising generation of activists were making sit-ins and demonstrations rather than lawsuits the hallmark of the civil rights movement. What role, he wondered, could he now play? When in 1960 Kenyan independence leaders asked him to help write their constitution, Marshall threw himself into their cause. Here was a new arena in which law might serve as the tool with which to forge a just society. In Exporting American Dreams , Mary Dudziak recounts with poignancy and power the untold story of Marshall's journey to Africa. African Americans were enslaved when the U.S. constitution was written. In Kenya, Marshall could become something that had not existed in his own country: a black man helping to found a nation. He became friends with Kenyan leaders Tom Mboya and Jomo Kenyatta, serving as advisor to the Kenyans, who needed to demonstrate to Great Britain and to the world that they would treat minority races (whites and Asians) fairly once Africans took power. He crafted a bill of rights, aiding constitutional negotiations that helped enable peaceful regime change, rather than violent resistance. Marshall's involvement with Kenya's foundation affirmed his faith in law, while also forcing him to understand how the struggle for justice could be compromised by the imperatives of sovereignty. Marshall's beliefs were most sorely tested later in the decade when he became a Supreme Court Justice, even as American cities erupted in flames and civil rights progress stalled. Kenya's first attempt at democracy faltered, but Marshall's African journey remained a cherished memory of a time and a place when all things seemed possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

While Marshall is best known for his pivotal role during Brown v. Board of Education and his appointment to the Supreme Court, Dudziak (Cold War Civil Rights) recovers a nearly buried undertaking, "one of the great adventures of his life": Marshall's contributions to the Kenyan Bill of Rights. Marshall arrived in London in January 1960; a month later, the Greensboro, N.C., sit-in began, and Marshall found himself "torn between two continents and two movements." The author effectively sketches those events in the civil rights movement (civil disobedience, urban riots, Black Power) and in Kenya (President Kenyatta's early moderation and subsequent mistreatment of the Asian minority and suppression of opposition) that supported and undermined Marshall's "faith in the law as a vehicle for social change." The tensions between Marshall's desire for equal rights and Kenyatta's priorities of "sovereignty and national unity" are still heartbreakingly unresolved, as are Marshall's great hope for the "entrenchment in Kenya of the rights he still hoped for in America." Dudziak's clarity and careful documentation make her book accessible to the general reader and a valuable tool for African and African-American studies. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In 1960, many post-independence African nations were on the cusp of political and social revolution. To help structure Kenya's society, the Kenyan government invited prominent civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall to help develop a constitution and bill of rights. Dudziak (law & history, Univ. of Southern California Law Sch.) examines the multicultural implications for both Marshall and the Kenyan leaders as they ventured into uncharted territory. Marshall used his American legal consciousness to solve the problems of Kenyan society as it moved from colonial rule to democratic self-government. Dudziak recognizes the social and political disruptions to Kenya's path to democratic norms, including the recent violent crisis following the disputed 2007 presidential election, and contrasts Kenya's peaceful regime change in the early 1960s with contemporary U.S. racial conflicts in many urban areas. She also examines how the conception of democracy and rights varies among cultures. A central element for Marshall was how to develop ideas that would engage newly independent African political power and yet protect the rights of white minorities. In America, Marshall faced the same problem, but the racial proportions were reversed. This book on a less-studied part of Marshall's career is recommended for libraries collecting in law, legal processes, and African and African American history.
—Steven Puro

Human Rights Quarterly
[A] work for the ages. Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams creatively juxtaposes the African American struggle for equality in law with the Kenyan struggle for political independence from white British colonial rule. . . . Dudziak casts Marshall as a bridge between two epochal quests for human dignity, drawing painful parallels.
— Makau Mutua
Law and Politics Book Review
[A] thought provoking and painstakingly researched journey through a crucial transformational moment in two nations' histories. . . . [W]e are invited to reflect on the potentials and core limits on liberalism, democracy, and law as paths to transformation and justice.
— Julie Novkov
Human Rights Quarterly - Makau Mutua
[A] work for the ages. Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams creatively juxtaposes the African American struggle for equality in law with the Kenyan struggle for political independence from white British colonial rule. . . . Dudziak casts Marshall as a bridge between two epochal quests for human dignity, drawing painful parallels.
Law and Politics Book Review - Julie Novkov
[A] thought provoking and painstakingly researched journey through a crucial transformational moment in two nations' histories. . . . [W]e are invited to reflect on the potentials and core limits on liberalism, democracy, and law as paths to transformation and justice.
From the Publisher
"[A] work for the ages. Dudziak's Exporting American Dreams creatively juxtaposes the African American struggle for equality in law with the Kenyan struggle for political independence from white British colonial rule. . . . Dudziak casts Marshall as a bridge between two epochal quests for human dignity, drawing painful parallels."—Makau Mutua, Human Rights Quarterly

"[A] thought provoking and painstakingly researched journey through a crucial transformational moment in two nations' histories. . . . [W]e are invited to reflect on the potentials and core limits on liberalism, democracy, and law as paths to transformation and justice."—Julie Novkov, Law and Politics Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199839957
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
07/02/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Mary L. Dudziak is Professor of Law and History at the University of Southern California Law School. Her books include Cold War Civil Rights and September 11 in History. She is currently a Guggenheim Fellow and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton.

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