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Kwame Nkrumah

Institution:
London School of Economics and Political Science

Discipline:
Anthropology

Country of Origin:
Ghana

Study Destination:
United Kingdom

Year of Graduation:
Unable to graduate

Year inducted into Hall of Fame:
2015

Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah was the first Prime Minister of Ghana and its predecessor state, the Gold Coast, from 1951 to 1966 and led it to independence as Ghana in 1957. After Ghana became a republic in 1960, Nkrumah became President. An influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963. He saw himself as an African Lenin.

After studying in the United States of American and earning a Bachelor degree in 1939 in Economics and Sociology and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1942 from Lincoln University, he went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a Master of Science degree in Education and a Master of Arts in Philosophy in 1943.  He then came to London in 1945 and enrolled at the London School of Economics and Political Science as a PhD candidate in Anthropology. However, after on term, he withdrew and the next year enrolled at University College, with the intent to write a philosophy dissertation on 'Knowledge and Logical Positivism' but moved on to study Law at Gray's Inn (currently known as City Law School of City University) but did not complete.

Instead, Nkrumah spent his time on political organising for anti-colonialism and African freedom.

He returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 after he was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). This political convention was exploring paths to independence. However, after a riot in 1948 and the then coloial British government suspecting that the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) was behind the protests, Nkrumah was arrested along with other party leaders but they were soon released after the British realised their error.  Howerver, Nkrumah emerged as the leader of the youth movement soon after.  He travelled the country proclaiming that the Gold Coast needed self-governance 'now'.

In 1949 Nkrumah formed a new political party, the Convention People's Party (CPP) and organised a "Positive Action" campaign on 1 January 1950, including civil disobedience, non-cooperation, boycotts and strikes. That day, the colonial administration arrested Nkrumah and many CPP supporters and he was sentenced to three years in prison.  However, facing international protests and internal resistance, the British decided to leave the Gold Coast. Britain organized the Gold Coast legislative election, the first general election to be held under universal franchise, from 5–10 February 1951. Although Nkrumah was in jail, his CPP was elected by a landslide, taking 34 out of 38 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly. Nkrumah was released from prison on 12 February and was summoned by Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, the Governor, and asked to form a government on 13 February 1951 and after amendment to the Constitution, Nkrumah became the first Prime Minister of the Gold Coast.  

Six years later, at 12 noon on 6 March 1957, Nkrumah declared Ghana independent. The country became a Commonwealth realm. Nkrumah was hailed as the Osagyefo - which means "redeemer" in the Akan language. This independence ceremony included the Duchess of Kent and Governor General Charles Arden-Clarke. With 600-plus reporters in attendance, Ghanaian independence became one of the most internationally reported news events in modern African history.

Under Nkrumah's leadership, Ghana adopted some socialist policies and practices. Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools.

In February 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state visit to North Vietnam and China, his government was overthrown in a military coup. Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but he continued to push for his vision of African unity. He lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country. He died of prostate cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62.

Over his lifetime, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doctorates by Lincoln University in the USA; Moscow State University; Cairo University in Cairo, Egypt; Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland; Humboldt University in East Berlin; and many other universities.

In 2000, he was voted Africa's man of the millennium by listeners to the BBC World Service, being described by the BBC as a "Hero of Independence," and an "International symbol of freedom as the leader of the first black African country to shake off the chains of colonial rule."

In September 2009, President John Atta Mills declared 21 September (the 100th anniversary of Kwame Nkrumah's birth) to be Founder's Day, a statutory holiday in Ghana to celebrate the legacy of Kwame Nkrumah.