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Kwame Nkrumah

(1909—1972) president of Ghana


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c. 1909–1972)

The first president of independent Ghana (1957–66) and the first popular African leader to achieve independence for his country. Unfortunately the national hero turned into a despotic tyrant, who was deposed by a military coup.

Born in Nekroful, western Gold Coast (now Ghana), the son of a goldsmith, Nkrumah was educated at Catholic mission schools before training to be a teacher in Accra in 1926. Travelling to the USA in 1935, he took degrees at Lincoln and Pennsylvania universities (later teaching political science at Lincoln University) before studying law in London in 1945. In London Nkrumah was active in the West African Students Union and when he returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 he became leader of the newly formed United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) Party. Forced to resign in 1949 over his ‘Positive Action’ campaign (a programme of civil disobedience, agitation, and widespread propaganda), Nkrumah launched his own political party, the Convention People's Party (CPP), the first mass-appeal party to emerge in black Africa. In 1950 he was imprisoned by the British as a subversive but was released in 1951, following a landslide victory by the CPP. He was elected the first prime minister of the Gold Coast by the legislative assembly in 1952. Six years later in 1957, the Gold Coast became the first black African colony to achieve independence, adopting the name of Ghana. Declaring Ghana a republic in 1960, Nkrumah decreed himself president for life in 1964, banning all opposition parties. He was deposed in 1966, while on a visit to Peking; the reaction of the Ghanaian people to this was jubilation and the destruction of the statue of himself that Nkrumah had erected. He died in exile.

Subjects: History — Politics.


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