Nkrumah and his family meeting Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser during the 1965 OAU Summit in Accra

Biography of Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah

Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was born on September 21, 1909 to Kofi Ngonloma of the Asona Clan and Elizabeth Nyanibah of the Anona Clan at Nkroful in the Western Region.

Dr Nkrumah was first named Francis Nwia-Kofi (the latter name, ­after a prominent family personality), but he later changed his name to Kwame Nkrumah in 1945 in the UK, preferring Kwame because he was born on a Saturday.

In 1958, he married 25-year-old Helena Ritz Fathia, an Egyptian Coptic and relative of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, when he was 49 years, and had three children by her: Gokeh, Samia Yaaba and Sekou Nkrumah.

His childhood mentor was Dr Kwegyir Aggrey, an Assistant Vice Principal and the first African member of staff at the then Prince of Wales’ College at Achimota, Achimota.

Education and career

He had his elementary school education at Half Assini, where his father worked as a goldsmith, but a German Roman Catholic priest by name George Fischer significantly influenced his elementary school education.

In 1930, Nkrumah obtained his Teacher's Certificate from the Prince of Wales’ College at Achimota, which was formerly known as the Government Training College, Accra.

Subsequently, in 1931 he became a teacher at the Roman Catholic School at Elmina in the Central Region, and later became the Head teacher of the Roman Catholic Junior School at Axim in the Western Region.

Dr Nkrumah moved to the Roman Catholic Seminary at Amisano in the Central Region in 1932 as a Teacher but three years later, in 1935, entered the Lincoln University, Pennsylvania in the USA, where he earned a BA in 1939.

In 1942 he earned a BA (Theology) at the same Lincoln University in the USA and in 1943 earned an M.Sc. Education, MA Philosophy, and completed course work as well as preliminary examination for a Ph. D. degree at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

From 1939 to 1945, Dr Nkrumah combined his studies with part-time lectureship in Negro History. During this period, he helped to found the African Studies Association and the African Students Association of America and Canada.

He was voted the "Most Outstanding Professor-Of-The-Year by "The Lincolnian" in 1945 as a result of his hard work. In May the same year he arrived in London with the aim of studying Law and completing his thesis for a Doctorate but met George Padmore.

The two, as Co-Political Secretaries, helped to organise the Sixth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England.

After the Congress, Nkrumah continued working for the colonisation of Africa and became the Vice-President of the West African Students Union. He was also leader of "The Circle", the secret organisation dedicated to the unity and independence of West Africa, in its struggle to create and maintain a Union of African Socialist Republics.


Political activism

In 1947 Dr Nkrumah wrote his first book titled "Towards Colonial Freedom" and in the same year in December, he returned to the then Gold Coast and became General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC).

As a result of his activism, he, together with Executive Members of the UGCC known later as the "Big Six", was detained in 1948 following disturbances in the colony. It was in September that same year that Dr Nkrumah established the Accra Evening News, which appeared on the news-stands the same day that he was dismissed as the General Secretary of UGCC.

In June the following year, he formed the Convention People’s Party (CPP) with the Committee on Youth Organisation (CYO) and in December that year, (1949) declared Positive Action to demand Independence.

The following month of January in 1950, Dr Nkrumah got arrested, following riots and looting resulting from the declaration of Positive Action.

However, while he was in prison in February 1951, Dr Nkrumah won an election with 22,780 out of the 23,122 ballots cast, to take the Accra Central seat. He was released later from prison in the same month to form a new Government.

He again won the national election in 1956, which led to Ghana’s independence on March 6, 1957. The following year in April 1958, Dr Nkrumah convened a conference of the existing independent African States, made up of Ghana, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Morocco and Liberia.

In December that year, he once again held an All-African People’s Conference in Accra, the first Pan-African conference to be held on African soil during which he took the first step towards African Unification, by signing an agreement with Sekou Toure to unite Ghana and Guinea.

Through Dr Nkrumah’s instrumentality, Ghana gained full republican status to become a sovereign nation in 1960. In 1961 Nkrumah extended the Ghana - Guinea union to include Mali under Modibo Keita.


It was the following year in August 1962 that Dr Nkrumah for the first time became the target of an assassination attempt at Kulungugu in the Northern Region.

Undaunted, Nkrumah in May 1963 organised a conference of the 32 independent African States in Addis Ababa. It was at that conference that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed with the purpose of working for the Unity, Freedom and Prosperity of the people of Africa.

One-party state

In 1964, Nkrumah established Ghana as a one-party state, with himself as Life President, and published his book, “Neocolonialism" in 1965. In the book, he showed how foreign companies and governments were enriching themselves at the expense of the African people. The book drew harsh protest from the US government, which consequently withdrew its economic aid of $35 million previously earmarked for Ghana.

Dr Nkrumah was on February 24, 1966 overthrown in the country’s first military coup d'etat while on a trip to Hanoi, North Vietnam. He left for Conakry, Guinea, on being told of the overthrow and lived in Conakry as Co–President of Guinea.

He died of natural causes in Romania on April 27, 1972 and was buried on July 7, 1972 at Nkroful in Ghana.

Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah authored over 20 books and publications and is a lead authority on political theory and practical Pan-Africanism. He selflessly dedicated his life to show how future sons and daughters of Africa should prepare themselves as well as strive to unify Africa and harness its wealth for the benefit of all descendants of the continent.

From 1957 to 1966 when he was overthrown, Dr Nkrumah did a lot of capital investments in Ghana, including the Akosombo Hydroelectric Dam, the industrial city of Tema, the Accra/Tema Motorway, several industries and the Adomi Bridge.


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