Kwame Nkrumah (1909 – 1972), one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the 20th century, served as the founder, and first President of Ghana.
Nkrumah graduated from the Achimota School in Accra in 1930, later studying at the Roman Catholic Seminary and teaching at the Catholic school in Axim. In 1935 he left Ghana for the United States, receiving a BA from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in 1939, where he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology. He also earned a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942 and a Master of Arts in philosophy the following year.
During his time in the United States, Nkrumah visited and preached in black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City. He read books about politics and divinity. He encountered the ideas of Marcus Garvey. He also tutored other students in philosophy. He also met the Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James in 1943, and later described how it was from James, then a Trotskyist, that he learnt ‘how an underground movement worked’.
He arrived in London in May 1945 intending to study at the LSE. However, after meeting with George Padmore he helped to organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England.
He returned to Ghana in 1947 and became general secretary of the newly founded United Gold Coast Convention but split from it in 1949 to form the Convention People’s party (CPP).
After his ‘positive action’ campaign created disturbances in 1950, Nkrumah was jailed, but when the CPP swept the 1951 elections, he was freed to form a government, and he led the colony to independence as Ghana in 1957. A firm believer in African liberation, Nkrumah pursued a radical pan-African policy, playing a key role in the formation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. As head of government, he was less successful however, and as time passed he was accused of forming a dictatorship. In 1964 he formed a one-party state, with himself as president for life, and was accused of actively promoting a cult of his own personality. Overthrown by the military in 1966, with the help of western backing, he spent his last years in exile, dying in Bucharest, Romania, on April 27, 1972. His legacy and dream of a “United States of African” still remains a goal among many.
Nkrumah was the motivating force behind the movement for independence of Ghana, then British West Africa, and its first president when it became independent in 1957. His numerous writings address Africa’s political destiny.
Nkrumah’s later humanism is apparant in these quotes:. “The African personality is itself defined by a cluster of humanist principles which underlie the traditional African society.” (Consciencism, 79)
“Fear created the gods, and fear preserves them, fear in bygone ages of wars, pestilence, earthquakes and nature gone berserk, fear of acts of God. Fear today of the equally blind forces of backwardness and rapacious capital . (14)
Read more about a Communitarian Ethos, Equality and Human Rights in Africa on the International Humanist and Ethical Union Website