Nkrumah, Kwame

1909–1972
President of Ghana

Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah, known as Kwame Nkrumah, was the prime minister and first president of GHANA. Born in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), Nkrumah attended Achimota College in the colony. He continued his studies in the United States, where he served as president of the African Students Association, and in England. In London he wrote a book, Towards Colonial Freedom (1947), that outlined his ideas on fighting colonialism in Africa.

Returning to the Gold Coast, Nkrumah became active in politics. He founded the Convention People’s Party, which organized strikes and civil disobedience against the colonial government. Jailed in 1950 for his part in a strike, he was released early in order to take a seat in the Legislative Assembly. Nkrumah became prime minister of the colony in 1952 and continued in the post five years later when Ghana won its independence from Great Britain.

Nkrumah, Kwame

In 1960 Ghana became a republic and Nkrumah was elected president. As president, he focused much of his attention on working toward African unity. Ghana’s economy was initially strong due to high prices for cocoa, its leading crop. But as prices fell, so did the nation’s fortunes. During the early 1960s Nkrumah escaped several assassination attempts, and each time he responded by arresting opponents and tightening his control over the country. While he was still a leader in the movement to create a unified Africa, it was clear that Nkrumah was rapidly losing power in his own nation. In 1964 he declared Ghana a single-party state under his leadership. Two years later, while Nkrumah was on a trip abroad, the military took over the government. Nkrumah returned to Africa and settled in GUINEA, where President Sékou TOURÉ named him copresident. In his later years, Nkrumah continued to write about the struggle for freedom and unity in Africa. (See also Colonialism in AfricaIndependence Movements.)