Seven things you (probably) didn’t know about Dr Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah was a visionary leader who played a crucial role in the fight for African independence and the development of Ghana

Kwame Nkrumah is a name that is synonymous with the history of Ghana.

Born on 21 September 1909, in Nkroful, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Nkrumah went on to become the first president of Ghana and a key figure in the fight for African independence.

Here are seven facts you probably didn’t know about him: 

Thirst for knowledge

Nkrumah’s early life was marked by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for politics. He studied at the prestigious Achimota School and later went on to pursue higher education in the United States and the United Kingdom.

It was during this time that Nkrumah became involved in the Pan-African movement, which sought to unify African nations and fight against colonial rule.

Received honorary awards from five universities

Over his lifetime, Nkrumah was awarded honorary doctorates by many universities, including Lincoln University (Pennsylvania), Moscow State University (USSR), Cairo University (Egypt), Jagiellonian University (Poland) and Humboldt University (East Germany).

Focused on economic development

Nkrumah’s presidency was marked by a focus on economic development and social welfare, with initiatives such as the construction of schools, hospitals, and roads, as well as the establishment of a national airline and shipping line.

Nkrumah was also a vocal advocate for pan-Africanism, calling for unity among African nations to fight against imperialism and colonialism. He played a key role in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which aimed to promote cooperation and solidarity among African countries.

Alleged controversial rule

However, Nkrumah’s rule was not without controversy. His government was criticised for its authoritarian tendencies and the suppression of political dissent. In 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup while on a state visit to China.

Despite his ousting, Nkrumah’s legacy as the founding father of Ghana and a champion of African independence remains strong. His vision of a united and prosperous Africa continues to inspire generations of leaders and activists across the continent.

His bride price to his wife’s family was rejected

Kwame Nkrumah married Fathia Ritzk, an Egyptian Coptic bank worker and former teacher, on the evening of her arrival in Ghana on New Year’s Eve, 1957–1958. Fathia’s mother refused to bless their marriage after another one of her children left with a foreign husband.

As a married couple, the Nkrumah family had three children: Gamal (born 1958), Samia (born 1960) and Sekou (born 1964). Gamal is a newspaper journalist, while Samia and Sekou are politicians. Nkrumah also has another son, Francis, a paediatrician (born 1962). There may be another son, Onsy Anwar Nathan Kwame Nkrumah, born to an Egyptian mother and an additional daughter, Elizabeth. Onsy’s claim to be Nkrumah’s son is disputed by Nkrumah’s other children.

Was voted ‘African Man of the Millennium’

In 2000, he was voted African 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.”

Nkrumah was honorary co-president of Guinea

Nkrumah’s government became authoritarian in the 1960s, as he repressed political opposition and conducted elections that were not free and fair. In 1964, a constitutional amendment made Ghana a one-party state, with Nkrumah as president for life of both the nation and its party. He fostered a personality cult, forming ideological institutes and adopting the title of ‘Osagyefo Dr.’, while adorning currency with his images. Nkrumah was deposed in 1966 by the National Liberation Council in a coup d’état, under whose supervision the country’s economy was privatised. Nkrumah lived the rest of his life in Guinea, where he was named honorary co-president.

Kwame Nkrumah’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the Ghanaian people, as well as in the history books that document his remarkable life and achievements.

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