Pioneering pan-Africanist and Ghana's independence leader Kwame Nkrumah, the first prime minister (1957-1960) and president (1960-1966) of the Republic of Ghana, was the leader of the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain its independence. He subsequently became a leading figure in the campaign for the United States of Africa. Nkrumah was born on September 21, 1909, in Nkroful, Gold Coast. The son of a goldsmith, he attended mission schools at Accra and government training colleges at Achimota (1926-1930) where he prepared to be a teacher.
Nkrumah left for the United States where he attended Lincoln University (1935-1939) and the University of Pennsylvania (1939-1943) in 1935. Nkrumah had earned multiple bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics, sociology, education, theology, and philosophy.
In 1949 Nkrumah formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP). Nkrumah protested British rule and led numerous petitions for self government and was imprisoned by the British in 1950. Nkrumah was released in 1951 when his party won the general election in a landslide victory and was elected prime minister in 1952.
As prime minister, Nkrumah led an aggressive campaign for independence and achieved it in 1957. He helped form the Organization of African Unity. Nkrumah passionately believed in building solidarity between the African continent and its diaspora as the only way to remove the shackles of European control and domination in Africa. He was an inspiration to Malcolm X, WEB Du Bois, Kwame Toure and The Black Panther Party.
Subsequently, Nkrumah was branded a dictator by his political opponents. In 1961 a firestorm of protest erupted after he appointed himself supreme commander and absolute head of the CPP and outlawed all other political parties. In 1966, Nkrumah’s government was overthrown by a coup d’état while he was on a trip to Beijing, China. Taking refuge in Guinea, Nkrumah spent the rest of his life in exile and in fear of assassination. He died of cancer in Bucharest, Romania on April 27, 1972 however Kwame Nkrumah’s global impact continues to breath life into movements that advance ideas around Pan-Africanism.