Few men on the continent have had the aura of President Kwame Nkrumah, one of the greatest pan-africanist of the continent and the first president of Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah was born on 21 September1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast (the pre-independence name of Ghana) the world’s largest cocoa producer. Hailing from a modest traditional family, He trained to be a teacher at the Achimota School in Accra from 1927 to 1930. For the following five years, he then taught in elementary schools across the Gold Coast. He later on attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a BA in theology in 1942. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Master of Science in education, and a master of arts in philosophy in 1943. During his time in the US, he preached at black Presbyterian churches in Philadephia, and New York city. Moving to London after World War II, Nkrumah helped organize Pan-African congresses, linking the emergent educated groups of the African colonies with activists, writers, artists, and well-wishers from the industrial countries. It was a time of great intellectual ferment, excitement, and optimism. Gandhi and India‘s achievement of independence in 1947 stirred dreams of freedom for the other colonies. “If we get self-government,” Nkrumah proclaimed, “we’ll transform the Gold Coast into a paradise in 10 years.”
In 1947, Nkrumah was invited to serve as the general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), exploring paths to independence of the Gold Coast from British rule. After the riots of February 1948, and arrests of UGCC leaders by British rule, Nkrumah emerged as the party leader upon release. He proclaimed that the Gold Coast needed “self-government now,” and built a large power base including cocoa farmers, women (at a time when women were not invited in the political process) and trade unions. On 12 June 1949, he organized a new political party based on these groups: the Convention People’s Party (CPP). Within two years the CPP had won limited self-rule elections, and Nkrumah became “Leader of Government Business” in 1951 after a landslide CPP win in the first general election– a de facto prime minister, responsible for internal government and policy. He set his sights firmly on independence. No amount of autonomy or self-rule, he argued, could match the energy, commitment, and focus of a government and people in a truly independent country. It was a precondition for growth. He summarized his philosophy in a slogan that became famous and influential across Africa: “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you….”
President Kwame Nkrumah’s speech proclaiming the independence of Ghana at 12:00AM on 6 March 1957
At long last, the battle has ended! And thus, Ghana, your beloved country is free forever!
And yet again, I want to take the opportunity to thank the people of this country; the youth, the farmers, the women who have so nobly fought and won the battle.
Also, I want to thank the valiant ex-service men who have so cooperated with me in this mighty task of freeing our country from foreign rule and imperialism.
And, as I pointed out… from now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realize that from now on we are no longer a colonial but free and independent people.
But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work. That new Africa is ready to fight its own battles and show that after all the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.
We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our foundation – our own African personality.
As I said to the Assembly a few minutes ago, I made a point that we are going to create our own African personality and identity. It is the only way we can show the world that we are ready for our own battles.
But today, may I call upon you all, that on this great day let us all remember that nothing can be done unless it has the purport and support of God.
We have won the battle and again rededicate ourselves … OUR INDEPENDENCE IS MEANINGLESS UNLESS IT IS LINKED UP WITH THE TOTAL LIBERATION OF AFRICA.
Let us now, fellow Ghanaians, let us now ask for God’s blessing for only two seconds, and in your thousands and millions.
I want to ask you to pause for only one minute and give thanks to Almighty God for having led us through our difficulties, imprisonments, hardships and sufferings, to have brought us to our end of troubles today. One minute silence.
Ghana is free forever! And here I will ask the band to play the Ghana National Anthem.
Reshaping Ghana’s destiny, I am depending on the millions of the country, and the chiefs and the people, to help me to reshape the destiny of this country. We are prepared to pick it up and make it a nation that will be respected by every nation in the world.
We know we are going to have difficult beginnings, but again, I am relying on your support…. I am relying upon your hard work.
Seeing you in this… It doesn’t matter how far my eyes go, I can see that you are here in your millions. And my last warning to you is that you are to stand firm behind us so that we can prove to the world that when the African is given a chance, he can show the world that he is somebody!
We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world!