Kwame Nkrumah


Kwame Nkrumah addressing the General AssemblyKwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) became the first prime minister and later first president of Ghana. He was born on 21 September 1909 at Nkroful in what was then the British-ruled Gold Coast, the son of a goldsmith. Trained as a teacher, he went to the United States in 1935 for advanced studies and continued his schooling in England, where he helped organize the Pan-African Congress in 1945. He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People's party (CPP).


After his 'positive action' campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. As head of government, he was less successful however, and as time passed he was accused of forming a dictatorship.


In 1964 he formed a one-party state, with himself as president for life, and was accused of actively promoting a cult of his own personality. Overthrown by the military in 1966, with the help of western backing, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on 27 April 1972. His legacy and dream of a "United States of Africa" still remains a goal among many.


Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser, Sukarno, Tito during the General Assembly session in 1961Nkrumah was the motivating force behind the movement for independence of Ghana, then British West Africa, and its first president when it became independent in 1957. His numerous writings address Africa's political destiny.


The photo shows the most important non-aligned leaders during the General Assembly session in September 1961: prime minister Nehru (India), president Nkrumah (Ghana), president Nasser (Egypt), president Sukarno (Indonesia) and president Tito (Yugoslavia).


In the autumn of 1978 the United Nations awarded Nkrumah a posthumous gold medal during a special session of the UN Committee against the racist regime in South Africa. His widow, Fathia Nkrumah, flew to New York to receive it at the United Nations headquarters. "First of all, let me thank the General Assembly most sincerely for their very kind decision to pay such a singular tribute to the memory of my late husband, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. He himself, I am sure, would have considered his contribution to the international campaign against apartheid as a duty, without looking for international approval or award. But alas, his untimely death has robbed us of his presence and encouragement," she told the assembled world leaders.





A letter from president Eisenhower to president Nkrumah on the situation in the Congo, 2 August 1960.

Speech by Nkrumah to the General Assembly, 24 October 1960 (text and sound).



Stamp catalogue


Union of Soviet Socialist Republics        9 August 1989







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last revised: 28 March 2010