Thurgood Marshall’s Bill of Rights

Marshall was proud of his participation in a historic event his biographers rarely highlight.

3 min readFeb 11, 2022


Photo by James Wiseman on Unsplash

Thurgood Marshall is mentioned for two milestones during Black History Month, winning the 1954 Brown v. Board school desegregation case and becoming the first black Supreme Court Justice in 1967. But Marshall was extremely proud of his participation in another historic event his biographers rarely highlight.

Found inside Marshall’s Supreme Court office after his death in 1991 was a monkey skin cloak. The cloak was given to him after he was made an honorary tribal chief in Kenya. Marshall’s law clerks said it was Marshall’s most cherished possession.

When Marshall won the desegregation case, he became an international hero. The Civil Rights Movement that ensued took place alongside movements to end colonial rule in Africa. Between 1957 and 1965 the majority of British and French colonies in Sub-Saharan Africa became independent countries.

Kenya’s independence from the British was difficult due to recent turmoil.

From 1952 to 1960 the British colony was under a state of emergency due to the Mau Mau revolt. The Mau Mau launched a guerrilla war against white settlers, who they lost land to in previous decades, the British Army, and pro-British Africans. This was the British Army’s bloodiest post-World War II conflict. In Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War and the End of Empire, David Anderson stated the conflict was a tale of atrocity and excess on both sides from which no one emerged with much pride and certainly no glory.

By 1960 the British government was prepared for Kenya to govern itself.

That same year, Marshall was invited by members of Kenya’s independence movement to be an advisor at the landmark Conference on the Kenya Constitution in London. Here the British government accepted the idea of majority rule, but this became problematic. Kenya had a substantial minority population consisting of Europeans and Asians. These groups were concerned about their status under the new government, will they be equals or second-class citizens?

The constitutional conference couldn’t move forward until this issue was addressed. Marshall…




J. Pharoah Doss is a columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier.