Picturing Black History

Photographs and stories that changed the world

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Transcript: International Networks of the American Civil Rights Struggle, an Interview with Damarius Johnson

Damarius Johnson

One of my contributions as a writer for the Picturing Black History project was to write an article, “International Networks”, which really is a chronicle of the ways in which African Americans had been involved in African independence struggles in the 1960s, and the ways in which the connections between continental Africa and the African Diaspora involve partnerships and collaboration on both sides of the event.

So one of the photos that I selected that I found in Getty’s archive that really struck my attention was an image of Jomo Kenyatta, who was the first president of independent Kenya, and Thurgood Marshall, who was the first African American Supreme Court justice. Now, this photo is a representation of the kind of political history that allow for their collaboration, in that Thurgood Marshall would be part of drafting the first constitution of Kenya and of course, Jomo Kenyatta would assume the role as president in independent Kenya.

So they had a great deal of conversations as they’re preparing for this very sobering, important political moment. But this image captures them in jest, which for both figures, is an important part of the kind of visual archive that we have, in that Thurgood Marshall is often represented in a very serious and stoic manner as is Jomo Kenyatta. So, to capture these two figures, demonstrates the kind of warm and friendly relationship that existed between the two men.