Kwame Nkrumah: Ghanaian Pan Africanist

Photo of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah (born: September 21, 1909 - died: April 27, 1972).
First President of Ghana and a founding member of the Organization of African Unity.

Kwame Nkrumah was born September 21, 1909 at Nkroful, Gold Coast (now Ghana). He was originally named after Francis Nwia-Kofi, an honored family personality. Son of goldsmith Kofi Ngonloma of the Asona Clan and Elizabeth Nyanibah of the Anona Clan, Nkrumah showed an early thirst for education. In 1930, Nkrumah completed studies at the acclaimed Prince of Wales’ Achimota School in Accra. Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey, Assistant Vice Principal and the first African staff member at the college, became his mentor.

Kwame Nkrumah U.S. Studies

By 1935, Nkrumah undertook advance studies in the United States at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. In 1939,  he earned an BA in Economics and Sociology. By 1942, he earned an BA in Theology. By 1943, Nkrumah had earned an M.Sc. (Education), an MA (Philosophy), and completed course work for a Ph. D. degree at the University of Pennsylvania.

During his U.S. undergraduate studies, Nkrumah also pledged the predominately African-American Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, an academic honor society. He is said to have introduced African traditional steps to the fraternity's stepping tradition, including cane stepping

Kwame Nkrumah Organizes Pan-Africans in Europe

Arriving in London in May of 1945, Nkrumah organized the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England and began networking through organizations like the West African Students' Union, where he served as vice-president. This same year he officially changed his name from Francis Nwia-Kofi to Kwame Nkrumah.

Image of the West African nation of Ghana

By December 1947, Nkrumah had returned to his homeland as a teacher, scholar, and political activist. He became General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which explored strategies for gaining independence from colonial England. Under Nkrumah's leadership, the UGCC attracted local political support from farmers and women. Women did not have the right to vote in many traditional patriarchial societies and farmers who were not land-owners also did not have the suffrage. In 1948, Accra, Kumasi, and other areas of the Gold Coast were experiencing general social unrest, which the British colonial government accredited to the UGCC. By 1949, Nkrumah had galvanized wide support and reorganized his efforts under the Convention People's Party (CPP).

Nkrumah advocated for constitutional changes. This included self-government, universal franchise without property qualifications, and a separate house of chiefs. Jailed by the colonial administration in 1950 for his political activism, the CPP's 1951 election sweep was followed by Nkrumah's release. Ghana was declared an independent state on March 6, 1957.

Photo of Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A devout Pan-Africanist, Nkrumah supported African federation under the auspices of the United States of African. He also had meaningful dialogue with African intellectuals from the diaspora, including W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Marcus Mosiah Garvey. He also corresponded with Trinidadian C.L.R. James, whom he credited with teaching him how an "underground movement worked." Nkrumah played a pivotal role in developing the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, the same year he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize.

Photo of Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam
in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

President of Ghana in West Africa

By 1964, Ghana was operating as a one-party state with Nkrumah as life president. Often criticized for developing non-participatory governance, by 1966 the Ghanaian military overthrew Nkrumah's administration. Nkrumah died in exile on April 27, 1972 in Bucharest, Romania. Nkrumah authored over 20 books and publications. For further references, Panaf Books has a list of Nkrumah's writings at their on-line website.
Photo of Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park is located
in downtown Accra, the capital of Ghana

Here is a video dedicated to Kwame Nkrumah by Ghana's very own musician Obrafour:


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