Nkrumah, Kwame, 1909-1972

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Nkrumah, Kwame, 1909-1972

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Other form(s) of name

  • Nwia-Kofi, Francis, 1909-1972
  • Ngolomah, Francis Kwame, 1909-1972
  • Kwame Ngolomah, Francis, 1909-1972
  • Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah, 1909-1972
  • Nkrumah, Francis Nwia Kofi, 1909-1972
  • Kofi Nkrumah, Francis Nwia, 1909-1972
  • Nwia Kofi Nkrumah, Francis, 1909-1972

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Kwame Nkrumah was born on September 21, 1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast (now known as Ghana). Eight days after his birth he was given the name Francis Nwia-Kofi by his father, and then named Francis Kwame Ngolomah. A bright student he completed his early education two years shorter than most students and by 1925 he was serving as a student teacher in his school. He proceeded to enter the Government Training College in the capital where he trained to become a teacher, and obtained a teacher’s certificate from Prince of Wales' College in 1930. In 1931 he began teaching at a primary school in Elmina, the following year he was named headmaster at a school in Axim, and then in 1933 appointed a teacher at a Catholic seminary in Amissano.

After two years at Amissano, Nkrumah decided to continue the furtherance of his education by travelling to the United States. He arriving in the United States in October 1935 and thereupon travelled to Philadelphia and enrolled at Lincoln University. During his time in America, he began to use the name Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah. In 1939 he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology from Lincoln and after convocation he was made an assistant lecturer in philosophy at the university and acted as a guest preacher at several Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania and New York. In addition, he continued his education including receiving a Bachelor of Theology degree from Lincoln University in 1942, and Masters of Arts degree in philosophy and Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. He soon travelled to the United Kingdom and in 1945, he enrolled in the London School of Economics as a PhD candidate in anthropology; and also changed his name to Kwame Nkrumah. He withdrew from the London School of Economics after one term and enrolled at University College (London), but also did not complete his studies here. While living overseas Nkrumah became active with student causes and studying political philosophy, particularly those focussed on African students, such as helping to establish the African Students Association of America and Canada. These activities often involved the promotion of decolonization in Africa and improving the lives of their citizens; he also promoted the idea of pan-African control with the principles of communism and socialism, but without tribalism.

Upon the establishment of a new constitution in the Gold Coast in 1946, the prospects for its independence from the United Kingdom appeared to have improved significantly. In August 1947, the colony formed its first independent political party, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) that had as one its objective self-government by Africans. The party membership approached Nkrumah to run the party and he agreed, so by November 1947 he left the UK for the Gold Coast to become the party’s general secretary. High inflation and unemployment, and perceived indifference by colonial authorities, led to demonstrations in the country. After Nkrumah and other leaders, addressed protesters whose demonstrations ultimately led to violence, the authorities arrested him. Following additional demonstrations and threats of violence by the populace against the government, he was released in April 1948. The remaining leadership of the UGCC, although believing he was acting in the party’s name without authority, they recognized his increased popularity and attempting to keep him under their party banner offered him the position within the party of honorary treasurer. Nkrumah helped found the UGCC’s youth division that eventually split and took a more aggressive stance to push for self-government. His continued popularity and apparently more close alignment with the former youth organization, resulted in pressure for him to form a new political party. On 12 June 1949, he announced the formation of the Convention People's Party (CPP), under whose banner Nkrumah advocated for a new constitution and independence from colonial control. In response, the colonial authorities struck a commission to establish a new constitution, but it became apparent that the commission would not recommend de-colonization and led to Nkrumah requesting a constituent assembly to write the constitution. The governor of the Gold Coast would not agree to this and to increase pressure on the governor, Nkrumah organized supporters for a general strike. This strike led to violence and as a key organizer, he was arrested by the authorities and sentenced to three years in prison. Despite this, Nkrumah remained influential in politics, including running in the February 1951 legislative election in which his party won a large majority of the seats (34 of 38) including his own. This dominance led to the governor of the colony, releasing Nkrumah from prison and asking him to help form a government. Nkrumah's title was Leader of Government Business in a cabinet chaired by the colony's governor. In 1952 the governor withdrew from the cabinet, leaving Nkrumah with title of prime minister but no additional power. In this position he began to pursue reforms to the constitution that could lead to the Gold Coast's independence, including in October 1952 seeking opinions from councils and political parties on possible reform from across the Gold Coast. The consultation resulted in a paper that recommended the need for a new constitution and by June 1953 constitutional proposals were being accepted both by the Gold Coast assembly and by the British colonial administrators, and in April 1954 a new constitution had been formed.

On February 21, 1957, British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, announced that Ghana would become a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations with Nkrumah as its first prime minister. Nkrumah served as prime minister of the newly independent nation from March 6, 1957 to July 1, 1960. During this initial period as an independent country, he strove to limit local movements and groups’ authority and influence over the populace. This included the passage of legislation that banned regional or tribal-based political parties, legislation that allowed for the incarceration for up to five years without charge or trial to with only Nkrumah having the authority to release prisoners early; and the abolishing of regional assemblies. He also established in 1957 the Ghana News Agency to manage domestic news and its propagation abroad. It became clearly that Nkrumah based much of his policies on his belief that socialism was the preferred system for structuring the government and economy, and for reinforcing African values. On March 6, 1960, he announced plans for a new constitution that would change the country to a republic headed by a president who would hold broadened powers including greater legislative control. By the end of April a plebiscite and presidential election had been completed, resulted in a new constitution and Nkrumah becoming president. Despite some of the repressive measures (including amending the constitution to allow the president to remove judges at any level), his status as the leader of the first African nation to gain its independence following World War Two, Nkrumah gained a high profile domestically and internationally. 1964 marked a turning point in his administration. A constitutional amendment was passed with 99.91% of the vote that made his party the only legal political party with Nkrumah as president for life. Also in 1964, all students that were entering college in Ghana would be required to a two-week orientation that was meant to imprint his party’s ideology upon them so that it would be loyally and enthusiastically supported.

In February 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit to North Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown by the national military and police forces, with backing from the civil service resulting in a military government that would rule Ghana for three years. Nkrumah who in the years leading up to the coup had been concerned about his safety and conspiracies against his regime and when it occurred, he implied/accused the United States as enabling the actions. In the years under military rule, the country began to align politically with western nations, including inviting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to assist in managing their economy. Nkrumah would never return to Ghana, instead he lived in exile in Guinea as the guest of its president. He continued to be paranoid about threats from western intelligence agencies, fearing abduction or assassination. When his health failed, Nkrumah travelled to Bucharest, Romania for treatment.

Nkrumah died on April 27, 1972 in Romania.


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Prime Minister


Gold Coast (now Ghana) : 1952-03-21 to 1957-03-06;
Ghana : 1957-03-06 to 1960-07-01.



Ghana : 1960-07-01 to 1966-02-24.

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Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan

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  • English


  • Latin


Milne, June. " Kwame Nkrumah : Life after the coup and the Conakry period." New Directions, v. 14, n. 4, 1987-10-01. Retrieved from: http://dh.howard.edu/newdirections/vol14/iss4/6.

Wikipedia contributors. Kwame Nkrumah. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 2020-11-14. Retrievedfrom https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Kwame_Nkrumah&oldid=988704506.

GhanaWeb. "Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ex-Head of State: 1957 - 1966." Retrieved from https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/person/Osagyefo-Dr-Kwame-Nkrumah-177.

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