Kwame Nkrumah Comes To Washington – 1958 – Past Daily Reference Room
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The 1950s represented an enormous change in world politics and leadership. It signified the beginning of the end of colonialism throughout Africa and the rise of The Right Of Self-Determination. It is probably in Africa where the most dramatic upheavals took place and some of the most hard-fought resistance to Colonial rule throughout the world.
Nkrumah was born the son of a goldsmith on 21 September, 1909 in what was then the Gold Coast, a British colony. He was sent to an elementary school run by a Catholic mission and later worked as a teacher himself.
Pursuing his dream of studying in the United States, this young man, of humble origins, crossed the Atlantic on a steamship as a stowaway. He lived and studied in the US for 10 years. In the mid-1940s, he moved to Britain where he studied law. It was there that he became a passionate advocate of pan-Africanism, of a strong and unified Africa.
By 1947 he had returned to the Gold Coast, where he organized strikes and boycotts and formed the radical Convention People’s Party (CPP) whose party slogan was “Independence Now.”
In 1950, Nkrumah was arrested by the British and sent to prison. The CCP won the elections the following year by a commanding majority. Nkrumah was released from prison and asked to form a government.
He became prime minister in 1952 but ultimate authority over the country still rested with the British governor. This changed in 1957 when the Gold Coast made a peaceful transition to independence.
This interview for the series Meet The Press takes place on the occasion of Nkrumah’s first visit to the U.S. as Prime Minister in July of 1958, where he was slated to meet with President Eisenhower. America’s big concern at the time was the threat of newly independent nations in Africa seeking aid and support from the Soviet Union, who was eager and more than willing to supply economic and material aid in exchange for a certain amount of influence and an ideological toe-hold. Needless to say, in the underlying Popularity contest of the Cold War, it was incumbent upon the U.S. to establish as much, if not more aid and support as possible, if Ghana and the other African countries were going to maintain an independent and pro-Western view of their emerging places in the world.
A fascinating period of time, with no easy answers and a considerable amount of struggle; first from Colonial powers and then from factions within the Independence movements and centuries-old disputes.
Kwame Nkrumah was one of the first to get the ball rolling – his story and the story of Ghana is truly remarkable. And this Meet The Press episode, first broadcast on July 27, 1958 is a good start.