Kwame Nkrumah

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Nkrumah, Kwame

(kwä`mā nkro͞o`mä), 1909–72, African political leader, prime minister (1957–60) and president (1960–66) of Ghana. The son of a goldsmith, he was educated at mission schools in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and became a teacher. A brilliant student, he studied (1935–45) in the United States and then went to London. While studying law there he held important posts in African nationalist organizations, espousing Pan-AfricanismPan-Africanism,
general term for various movements in Africa that have as their common goal the unity of Africans and the elimination of colonialism and white supremacy from the continent.
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. Returning to the Gold Coast in 1947, he was made general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention party by its founder, Dr. J. B. Danquah, who was later jailed by Nkrumah. In 1949, Nkrumah formed his own party, the Convention People's party, and led a series of strikes and boycotts for self-government. He was imprisoned (1950) by the British for sedition, but was released in 1951 when his party swept the general election; he became prime minister in 1952. Under his leadership the Gold Coast achieved (1957) independence and, in 1960, became the Republic of Ghana. Probably the leading proponent of pan-Africanism, he effected a loose union with Guinea (1959) and Mali (1960). Following a course of international political neutrality, he secured economic and technical aid from the United States and the Soviet Union. As president, Nkrumah suppressed political opponents, and in 1961, after a series of strikes, made himself supreme commander of the armed forces; he also assumed absolute control of the Convention People's party. Several attempts were made on his life. He increasingly isolated himself from the populace, meanwhile promoting a cult of personality. In 1966, while he was on a trip to Beijing, his government was overthrown. He subsequently took refuge in Guinea.


See his autobiography (1957); biographies by G. Marais (1972), B. Davidson (1974), and D. Kellner (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nkrumah, Kwame


Born Sept. 21, 1909, in Nkroful, Gold Coast; died Apr. 27, 1972. Figure in the African national liberation movement; founder and first president of the Republic of Ghana.

The son of a jewelry-maker, Nkrumah graduated from a teachers college in Accra in 1930 and became a teacher. From 1935 to 1945 he lived in the United States, where he graduated from Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania; while in the USA he also lectured on philosophy. Between 1945 and 1947 he lived in Great Britain, where he became actively involved in the movement for national liberation of the peoples of Africa. In 1947, having returned to his homeland, he became general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention. In 1949 he founded the Convention People’s Party, which led the liberation struggle against the English colonialists.

Imprisoned during 1950–51 by the English colonial authorities, Nkrumah became head of the first African government of the Gold Coast in 1952 and served as prime minister of Ghana from 1957, when the country’s independence was proclaimed. In 1960 he also assumed the presidency of Ghana. As a result of a military coup, he was removed from the presidency in 1966. Nkrumah’s final years were spent in exile in Guinea. In 1961 he was awarded the International Lenin Prize For Strengthening Peace Between Nations. He received honorary doctorates from the universities of Moscow, Cairo, and Kraków, among others.


In Russian translation:
Avtobiografiia. Moscow, 1961.
Ia govoriu o svobode: Izlozhenie afrikanskoi ideologii. Moscow, 1962.
Afrika dolzhna ob’edinit’sia. Moscow, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.