Monday, July 25, 2005

Thurgood Marshall and the Kenyan constitution

Learnt something really interesting last night. Was watching C-SPAN 2 (Book TV) a presentation by former supreme court clerk, Edward Lazarus author of "Closed Chambers" a 500 page book on the court (which I had to read for 1 of my classes), the quthor was discussing the court, justices and the ramifications of the recent nomination of Judge John Roberts.

As the author was discussing the decor in Justices' offices, he mentioned that Justice Thurgood Marshall (lawyer for NAACP in Brown V Board of Education 1954) had artificats from Kenya (spears, shields etc). If that was not interesting enough, he mentioned that Marshall got the artifacts from Kenya, after working on Kenya's first constitution. Woo things I did not know about this world. So this morning I looked up Marshall and the Kenyan constitution and found out that the gentleman was friends with Tom Mboya, attended the constitutional talks in London (1960-61) and help draft the Bill of Rights. The following links give some further info on the subject:

"In 1959, famous Kenyan freedom fighter Tom Mboya visited the U.S. and met Thurgood Marshall. Mboya was so impressed with Marshall that he invited him to Kenya to help draft a new constitution for independent Kenya. Kenya at that time was getting ready to get independence from Britain. In fact it is Marshall's friendship with Mboya that is credited with the huge wave of Kenyan students coming to the U.S. for further studies beginning in the 1960s. Marshall visited Kenya in 1960 on Mboya's invitation. His visit however didnt sit well with the Brits and the Americans, who considered him a radical. Under pressure from the British, the Kenyans barred Marshall from attending the conference. From Kenya, Marshall travelled to London, England where he continued to lobby for the Kenyan cause. Marshall returned to the U.S. a changed man in many ways. His trip outside America had opened his eyes to a lot of things and gave him a new perspective in life. He was particularly surprised by Europe, where contrary to popular belief, racism was not as prevalent as it was in America. In Britain, he was treated like the scholar that he was unlike in America where the fact that he was black was always thrown at him. He thus came back to America with a renewed thirst for drastic civil rights reforms. "

"Oh yes, because by early 1960 the British government agreed to sit down with us to work out a program for the independence of Kenya and to begin identifying the main issues, and also the nature of the constitution that would come out. Now I had done quite a bit of that when I was here in Berkeley, and so I could feel that my studies in the University of California at Berkeley were coming up. And, incidentally, we were very practical people, we said that we needed another expert so we wrote to Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then not at the Supreme Court, I think he was then still at NAACP.
He had been the attorney in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case.
Yes, correct. He readily agreed to come to Nairobi and then to come with us to London to be one of our constitutional advisors, in fact, the main constitutional advisor. And one of his major contributions was to insist that, "You've got to have a Bill of Rights in that constitution." And so that was wonderful assistance that we got from him." Julius Kiano

Picture of Marshall with Kenyatta


Blogger Afromusing said...

great post. I read about it awhile ago and thought it quite an important fact that most of us had no idea! We need to have a public acknowledgement of Thurgood Marshall's great contribution.A law library perhaps needs to be named after him. Am enjoying your blog posts btw.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Githush said...

I quite agree we should have some sought of acknowledgement for the work he did for us. And we should ensure that more Kenyans know about what role he and others (non-kenyans) played in our constitution and independence struggle.

4:39 PM  

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