Tuesday, August 05, 2008


My trip to Ghana had a research side, too. I'd been wanting to visit the country for years because of the relationship between C.L.R. James and Kwame Nkrumah.

These initial photos show Independence Square in Accra. When Ghana first celebrated its independence from English colonialism here, the dignitaries on the platform included the Caribbean Pan African activists George Padmore and C.L.R. James.

The remaining photos are from the Nhkrumah Memorial Park in Accra. The park features a small museum (where photography is not permitted). While the exhibits are somewhat sparse, one of the more surprising displays features some of the items of furniture from the room Nkrumah occupied when he was a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. This is the same Lincoln University attended by poets Melvin B. Tolson and Langston Hughes, one of the nation's oldest HBCUs. It was founded in relation to the much-debated Colonization Society's efforts to resettle freed slaves from America to Liberia. Whatever our feelings regarding that part of our horrific history, the fact remains that Lincoln has played a major role in post independence African political history. For example, Nnamdi Azikiwe, president of Nigeria's first republic, was a Lincoln student.

And it was at Lincoln that C.L.R. James, in the U.S. illegally and working underground as a revolutionary activist and theorist, met with the young Nkrumah. When Nkrumah went to London subsequently, he carried with him a letter of introduction to George Padmore (Malcolm Nurse), a friend of James's since his childhood and a major figure in the African liberation movement. The letter introduced Nkrumah as a bright young man and asked Padmore to assist him in his early efforts.

It was no surprise, therefore, that James was among the honored guests as Nkrumah stood before his people on the occasion of the independence.
In a later book, NKRUMAH AND THE GHANA REVOLUTION, James offers an insightful analysis of the successful freedom struggles of the people of Ghana. He also subjects Nkrumah's later political moves to a sharp critique, finding that Nkrumah went astray in much the same way that BLACK JACOBINS finds L'Ouverture did in San Domingue -- he began to substitute his own judgment for the will of the masses of the people.

James was one of those rare writers who was able to honor the real achievements of a figure such as Nkrumah while at the same time remaining prepared to level criticism where it was called for.
I couldn't help thinking of that while walking the grounds of Nkrumah Park, for it runs parallel to Ghana's own troubled relationship to its first independence leader. Could the crowd that once tore down Nkrumah's statue have foreseen this glorius memorial, with its rebuilt statue? And will Ghana learn from both the revolutionary triumphs and the political misjudgments of its greatest political thinker, Dr. Nkrumah?

1 comment:

Troy Camplin said...

I like how the first statue you show looks remarkably like the statue of Athena in Athens. Very Greek. Ironically, perhaps -- though I'm guessing the irony is not purposeful.