Skip to main content

Mary L. Dudziak

books and selected works
Home  About the Author  Project on War and Securi  Events  Resources  Site Map   
War Time
Exporting American Dreams
Cold War Civil Rights
September 11 in History
Legal Borderlands
Articles and Essays
paperback forthcoming 2011
Thurgood Marshall's African Journey
Oxford University Press

In 1960, a year of tumult and change in both Africa and America, America’s leading civil rights lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, was caught up in race politics on another continent. Invited by African nationalist leaders to help write Kenya’s independence constitution, he would find himself protecting the rights of a new kind of minority: white landholders soon to lose political power. Meanwhile, the fight for civil rights at home would change, as student activists began a sit-in movement and hoped to push the older generation of lawyers aside. Before long, Marshall would become the Supreme Court Justice we remember him for. The life lessons he would take to his work on the Court included his African journey, which reinforced his faith in law and minority rights as a way to perfect democracy. Marshall would tell everyone about Kenya. But the story of his work in Kenya has never been told.
Exporting American Dreams has been awarded the Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, USC, 2011.
Book Description from Oxford University Press:

Exporting American Dreams
Thurgood Marshall's African Journey
Mary L. Dudziak
An intimate and dramatic new portrait of one of the most important figures in American history.

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.


You can read the Introduction to Exporting American Dreams here.



"Dudziak brings out with impressive clarity how Thurgood Marshall's greatness stemmed from his Whitman-esque ability to contain multitudes: committed to the rule of law, he could chide Kenya's new leadership for departing even slightly from it, work for justice in segregated America, and sustain a relationship with young civil rights activists taking direct and 'illegal' action in the early 1960s."--Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School and author of Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1956-1961

"In this gem of a book, Mary Dudziak brings vividly to life the important but little known history of Thurgood Marshall's intense involvement with Kenya during its journey toward independence in the 1960s. This great champion of the American civil rights struggle never relinquished his hope that democracy and equality would one day flourish in Kenya, even as he became painfully aware of the obstacles that stood in the path of this dream. A powerful and poignant story, beautifully told."--Gary Gerstle, Vanderbilt University and author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century

"By dint of creative and exhaustive research, Mary Dudziak has written an excellent book about a facet of Thurgood Marshall's career that has never before received substantial attention. Who knew that 'Mr. Civil Rights' contributed significantly to African as well as American legal systems. All students of this great man's life owe a major debt to Professor Dudziak's labors."--Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School and author of Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal 


“A work for the ages.  Dudziak’s Exporting American Dreams creatively juxtaposes the African American struggle for equality in law with the Kenyan for political independence from white British colonial rule.  With the lessons of both struggles ever present, Dudziak casts Marshall as a bridge between two epochal quests for human dignity, drawing painful parallels.”

--Makau Mutua, Human Rights Quarterly

“Insightful and important.”

Henry Richardson, Law and History Review



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.


Law & Politics Book Review,  by Julie Novkov, University at Albany, SUNY

Mary Dudziak’s EXPORTING AMERICAN DREAMS: THURGOOD MARSHALL’S AFRICAN JOURNEY connects two stories – the American path from civil rights reform to the national institutional and cultural rejection of racial transformation and the Kenyan path from the boundless possibility and hope of independence to the rise to power of the repressive regime of Daniel arap Moi. The stories parallel each other loosely through their tragic arcs, particularly in the assassinations of movement visionaries Martin Luther King, Jr. on the balcony of a Memphis hotel in 1968 and Tom Mboya on the streets of Nairobi in 1969. But Dudziak puts the stories into dialogue with each other through the person of Thurgood Marshall, who bridged historic events in both nations through his own struggles to facilitate the triumph of the rule of law and the ideal of democratic governance with guarantees for full participation and protection of minority rights....

The [book's] true in using Marshall as both a concrete and conceptual link between the two movements. Focusing on Marshall enables Dudziak to make two sterling contributions. First, Dudziak thoughtfully addresses Marshall’s position as a symbol not only of black civil rights advancement but also as the embodiment of the American civic commitment to democracy. This analysis links American racial politics with American foreign policy at the core and opens a swath of subsidiary questions for research about how American racial policies shaped, responded to, and ultimately became integrated with American Cold War politics internally and internationally. Second, the selection of Marshall as the central figure raises painful but necessary questions about the rule of law and its capacity to foster and protect justice. Marshall confronted Black Power’s challenge to the state and its theorists’ identification of rule of law as a mere mask for racialized and politicized power relations. Yet he simultaneously closed his eyes to the Kenyan state’s conscious choice to embrace power at the expense of the rule of law and went so far as to praise Kenyatta’s continued fidelity to rights in the face of concrete repression. Does critical race theory’s analysis of law as a tool for reconfiguring power relations coupled with its pessimism about the possibilities for ever achieving racial justice provide a better framework? Or is it necessary, as Mari Matsuda once wrote (1992), to hold the view that the law is the fundamental source of both the most deeply rooted and ineradicable unjust hierarchies of power and our only realistic hope for transformation? [*866]
EXPORTING AMERICAN DREAMS is a thought provoking and painstakingly researched journey through a crucial transformational moment in two nations’ histories. In reflecting closely on Thurgood Marshall’s triumphs and failures in both nations and with both movements, we are invited to reflect on the potentials and core limits on liberalism, democracy, and law as paths to transformation and justice. The invitation seems particularly apt in an era when the United States is once again confronting its own legacy of racial subordination and grappling with questions around nation building and external threat. It is hard at the end of the book not to be frustrated on Marshall’s behalf as well as with Marshall himself. But it is much harder to know who among the contemporary American political and judicial elite might play a role similar to Marshall’s in struggling fiercely to integrate a commitment to the rule of law, to American ideals of liberty and equality, and to the dream of dismantling unjust hierarchies here and abroad.

The full review is here.