As the country celebrates the birthday of its first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, many people both young and old have taken to social media to celebrate him with the hashtag Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day.
Today’s statutory public holiday followed the passage of the Public Holiday Amendment Bill into law in March 2019.
After leading the CPP to victory to form a government, he became the leader of government business in 1951. The move, eventually led Ghana, formally the Gold Coast to independence from British rule in 1957.
As the leader of the country, Dr Nkrumah led massive socio-economic development that resulted in a number of infrastructural projects, including the construction of the Akosombo Dam, the Tema Motorway, among other projects.
Kwame Nkrumah was born on 21 September 1909 in Nkroful to a poor and illiterate family.Nkroful was a small village in the Nzema area, in the far southwest of the Gold Coast, close to the frontier with the French colony of the Ivory Coast. His father did not live with the family, but worked in Half Assini where he pursued his goldsmith business until his death.
Kwame Nkrumah was raised by his mother and his extended family, who lived together traditionally, with more distant relatives often visiting.He lived a carefree childhood, spent in the village, in the bush, and on the nearby sea.By the naming customs of the Akan people, he was given the name Kwame, the name given to males born on a Saturday. During his years as a student in the United States, though, he was known as Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah, Kofi being the name given to males born on Friday.
He later changed his name to Kwame Nkrumah in 1945 in the UK, preferring the name “Kwame”. According to Ebenezer Obiri Addo in his study of the future president, the name “Nkrumah”, a name traditionally given to a ninth child, indicates that Kwame likely held that place in the house of his father, who had several wives.
His father, Opanyin Kofi Nwiana Ngolomah, came from Nkroful, belonging to Akan tribe of the Asona clan. Sources indicated that Ngolomah stayed at Tarkwa-Nsuaem and dealt in goldsmith business. In addition, Ngolomah was respected for his wise counsel by those who sought his advice on traditional issues and domestic affairs. He died in 1927.
Kwame was the only child of his mother. Nkrumah’s mother sent him to the elementary school run by a Catholic mission at Half Assini, where he proved an adept student. A German Roman Catholic priest by the name of George Fischer was said to have profoundly influenced his elementary school education. Although his mother, whose name was Elizabeth Nyanibah (1876/77–1979), later stated his year of birth was 1912, Nkrumah wrote that he was born on 21 September 1909. Nyanibah, who hailed from Nsuaem and belongs to the Agona family, was a fishmonger and petty trader when she married his father.
Eight days after his birth, his father named him as Francis Nwia-Kofi after a relative but later his parents named him as Francis Kwame Ngolomah. He progressed through the ten-year elementary programme in eight years. By about 1925 he was a student-teacher in the school, and had been baptized into the Catholic faith.
While at the school, he was noticed by the Reverend Alec Garden Fraser, principal of the Government Training College (soon to become Achimota School) in the Gold Coast’s capital, Accra. Fraser arranged for Nkrumah to train as a teacher at his school.
Here, Columbia-educated deputy headmaster Kwegyir Aggrey exposed him to the ideas of Marcus Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois. Aggrey, Fraser, and others at Achimota taught that there should be close co-operation between the races in governing the Gold Coast, but Nkrumah, echoing Garvey, soon came to believe that only when the black race governed itself could there be harmony between the races.
After obtaining his teacher’s certificate from the Prince of Wales’ College at Achimota in 1930, Nkrumah was given a teaching post at the Roman Catholic primary school in Elmina in 1931, and after a year there, was made headmaster of the school at Axim. In Axim, he started to get involved in politics and founded the Nzima Literary Society.
In 1933, he was appointed a teacher at the Catholic seminary at Amissano. Although the life there was strict, he liked it, and considered becoming a Jesuit. Nkrumah had heard journalist and future Nigerian president Nnamdi Azikiwe speak while a student at Achimota; the two men met and Azikiwe’s influence increased Nkrumah’s interest in black nationalism.
The young teacher decided to further his education. Azikiwe had attended Lincoln University, a historically black college in Chester County, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia, and he advised Nkrumah to enroll there. Nkrumah, who had failed the entrance examination for London University, gained funds for the trip and his education from relatives.
He traveled by way of Britain, where he learned, to his outrage, of Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, one of the few independent African nations. He arrived in the United States, in October 1935