Kwame Nkrumah

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Kwame Nwai Nkrumah
Born21 September 1909
Nkroful, Gold Coast
Died27 April 1972 (aged 62)
Bucharest, Romania
Cause of deathCancer
Political orientationConsciencism
Political partyUnited Gold Coast Convention (1947-1949)
Convention People's Party (1949-1966)
All-African People's Revolutionary Party (1966-1972)

Kwame Nkrumah (September 21, 1909 - April 27, 1972)[1] was a Ghanaian politician, political theorist, and revolutionary. He was the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana following Ghana's independence from the United Kingdom in 1957. He was an advocate of scientific socialism and pan-Africanism, formed the Convention People's Party and was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity.[1] Nkrumah also played an instrumental role in the creation of the Union of African States, which was a short-lived confederation of African states that dissolved after the overthrow of his government.[2] In 1962, Nkrumah was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union.[1]

The CIA organized a coup against Nkrumah on 24 February 1966.[3] According to a March 12, 1966 memorandum to U.S. President Johnson from U.S. security staffer Robert Komer commenting on the coup, "Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African."[4]

After the coup, Nkrumah lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea; where he became Co-President of the country alongside Ahmed Sékou Touré. He passed away from cancer in 1972.[1]

Life[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Nkrumah was born in Nkroful, Gold Coast; on a Saturday in the middle of September. Not much is known about the exact date of Kwame Nkrumah's birth due to lack of importance surrounding dates of births among Nzima communities. Instead of recording birth dates, Nzima communities traditionally assessed ages based on the number of Kuntums during one's lifetime. Using this method, Nkrumah's mother approximated his birth year as 1912; however this contradicts the Catholic Church's approximation of September 21, 1909. Due to the circumstances of the Bakana shipwreck in Half-Assini, Nkrumah speculated that he was born on September 18, 1909. Initially raised in Nkroful with his mother, Nkrumah later joined his father in Half-Assini. His father was a goldsmith with several wives and many children.[5] His mother was a retail trader.[6]

Education[edit | edit source]

Nkrumah's mother sent him to an elementary school run by a Catholic mission at Half Assini,[1] and he attended Achimota School and expressed interest in becoming a Catholic priest. Eventually, he became teacher.

At the age of 26, Nkrumah left the Gold Coast to further his education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA. When he arrived in New York in October 1935, he traveled to Pennsylvania, where he enrolled despite lacking the funds for the full semester. However, he soon won a scholarship that provided for his tuition at Lincoln. He remained short of funds through his time in the US. To make ends meet, he worked in menial jobs, including as a dishwasher. On Sundays, he visited Black Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia and in New York.[1]

Nkrumah read widely from the literature of Karl Marx and Marcus Garvey. He had also read the writings of Pan-Africanists such as George Padmore and W.E.B. Du Bois. Historian Dr. Narh Oyortey comments that Nkrumah was "very much inspired by Marcus Garvey and the whole idea of return to Africa and Black freedom" which "fueled his ideas [...] for Pan-African consciousness".[6]

In addition to reading Marxist and Pan-Africanist writings, Nkrumah also participated in activism and political organizing while he was a student abroad. Nkrumah played a major role in the Pan-African conference held in New York in 1944.[1] Later, Nkrumah was among the principal organizers and co-treasurers of the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester (15–19 October 1945). The Congress elaborated a strategy for supplanting colonialism with African socialism.[6][1]

Nkrumah completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology in 1939. Lincoln then appointed him an assistant lecturer in philosophy, and he began to receive invitations to be a guest preacher in Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia and New York. He also gained a Bachelor of Theology degree from Lincoln in 1942. He also earned from Penn the following year a Master of Arts degree in philosophy and a Master of Science in education. He also attended the London School of Economics as a PhD candidate.[1]

Ghanaian independence[edit | edit source]

After twelve years abroad pursuing higher education, developing his political philosophy, and organizing with other diasporic pan-Africanists, Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast (which would become known as Ghana after independence) to begin his political career as an advocate of national independence. He was invited to become the Secretary General of the first political party of the Gold Coast, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC).[6]

Later, Nkrumah formed the Convention People's Party (CPP), which achieved rapid success through its unprecedented appeal to the common voter. He became Prime Minister in 1952 and retained the position when Ghana declared independence from Britain in 1957. In 1960, Ghanaians approved a new constitution and elected Nkrumah President. His administration funded national industrial and energy projects developed a strong national education system and promoted a national and pan-African culture.[1]

Unlike other leaders such as Nehru and Sukarno, Nkrumah attempted to free Ghana from the global capitalist economy. In 1964, he adopted the title of Osagyefo.[7]

1966 coup d'etat[edit | edit source]

The coup against Nkrumah took place on 24 February 1966.[3]

In a 1965 memorandum between the U.S. National Security Council Staff to the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, staffer Robert W. Komer wrote: "FYI, we may have a pro-Western coup in Ghana soon [...] The plotters are keeping us briefed [...] While we're not directly involved (I'm told), we and other Western countries (including France) have been helping to set up the situation by ignoring Nkrumah's pleas for economic aid." He notes that the deteriorating economic condition of Ghana may provide the "spark" and concludes the memo saying, "All in all, looks good."[8]

At the time of the coup, Nkrumah was outside of the country, travelling to various countries in Asia, ultimately headed to Hanoi, invited by Ho Chi Minh. However, after departing from Myanmar and arriving in China, he was informed of the coup. As a result of the coup and his wish to quickly return to his country, Nkrumah cancelled his engagements in Hanoi and arranged to fly to Guinea, chosen due to the country's proximity to Ghana and the good relations which the leadership of Guinea had with Nkrumah. While his return was being arranged, Nkrumah proceeded with his scheduled engagements in China, and made statements to the press about his intended imminent return to Ghana. Ultimately, Nkrumah reached Conakry, Guinea on March 2nd, 1966, where he began to receive eyewitness accounts of what had occurred in Ghana. His 1968 book Dark Days in Ghana discusses these events in depth.[9]

According to a March 12, 1966 memorandum to U.S. President Johnson from U.S. security adviser Robert Komer commenting on the coup, "Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime is almost pathetically pro-Western." Komer goes on to urge the President to express "pleasure" at the coups in Ghana and Indonesia when speaking to the Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and to make it clear that "we ought to exploit such successes as quickly and as skillfully as possible" and suggests giving the regimes a small gift of surplus grain, stressing that a small rather than lavish gift will have a "psychological" effect to "whet their appetite" and enable the prospect of getting more to create leverage for the United States.[4]

Post-coup[edit | edit source]

After the coup, Nkrumah lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, where he was named honorary co-president and wrote the work Dark Days in Ghana, a work that describes the events of the coup as well as Nkrumah's analysis of it in the context of the African Revolution as a whole.[9] He also reworked and published the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, the first drafts of which had been destroyed during the coup, as well as writing and publishing other works during this time. The work undertaken in this period of Nkrumah's life contributed to the foundation of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party.[10] Nkrumah passed away from cancer in 1972.[1]

Works[edit | edit source]

Nkrumah is the author of numerous works, some of which include Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (1965), Towards Colonial Freedom (1957), Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (1957), I Speak of Freedom (1961), Africa Must Unite (1964), Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation (1964), Challenge of the Congo (1967), Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare (1968), Dark Days in Ghana (1968), and Class Struggle in Africa (1970).[10][11][12]

Library works[edit | edit source]

List of library works by Kwame Nkrumah

Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism

Dark Days in Ghana

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 "Kwame Nkrumah, Biography." GhanaWeb.
  2. Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union formed
  3. 3.0 3.1 Charles Quist-Adade (2021-02-24). "How Did a Fateful CIA Coup—Executed 55 Years Ago this February 24—Doom Much of Sub-Saharan Africa?" CovertAction Magazine. Archived from the original on 2022-01-26.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Komer, Robert W. "Memorandum From the President’s Acting Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Komer) to President Johnson." Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XXIV, Africa. Document #260. Office of the Historian. United States Department of State. Archived 2022-05-18.
  5. Kwame Nkrumah (1957). Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah: 'Birth and Early Childhood'. [PDF] Thomas Nelson & Sons.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Faces Of Africa - Kwame Nkrumah." Documentary. CCTV News: Faces of Africa. Africa24 Media Ltd. CGTN Africa on Youtube. Archived 2023-03-13.
  7. Vijay Prashad (2008). The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World: 'Havana' (p. 109). [PDF] The New Press. ISBN 9781595583420 [LG]
  8. Komer, Robert W. "Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)." Washington, May 27, 1965. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968. Volume XXIV, Africa. Document 253. Office of the Historian, United States Department of State. Archived 2023-03-11.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Nkrumah, Kwame. Dark Days in Ghana. 1968. Lawrence & Wishart, London.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Sekou Touré, the PDG and the A-APRP" (2018-12-31). AAPRP-INTL. Archived 2022-10-01.
  11. Inusah Mohammed. “Which of Kwame Nkrumah’s Books Have You Read as a Ghanaian?” April 28, 2020. Archived 2022-11-03.
  12. Abayomi Azikiwe. “Africa & the Struggle against Imperialism: 40 Years after Kwame Nkrumah.” Archived 2021-06-10.