May Angelou is a great American poet, civil rights activist, dancer, film producer, television producer, playwright, film director, author, actress, professor, global treasure & champion of Ghana, so I know in debunking the myth of Ghana being the first African nation to attain independence, she was not trying to discredit Ghana’s legacy, but rather to allow generations to know & understand the full truth about a history that she was there to witness. Most African nations gained their Independence after WWII & Ghana has been heralded throughout the world as the first sub-saharan African nation to gain independence & to bring about the wind of change of independence that riddled through the continent after WWII.
When I saw this Maya Angelou video from 1985, I thought about the fact that Texas has made it a law to rewrite American history books & other states like Arizona have eliminated cultural studies classes/programs from their public school curriculums, which leaves us all as individuals with the onus of the responsibility in teaching the next generations the full truth about our individual & collective history. I am far from a historian, but I am a champion of seeking the truth particularly about my history because I truly believe in James Baldwin‘s words when he said “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go” & I am also a firm believer in Marcus Garvey‘s words in saying “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
“By the beginning of World War I in 1914, all of Africa, with the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, had been colonized, and initial African resistance had been overcome by the colonial powers. Over the next decades as colonial rule became institutionalized, African resistance to colonialism became more focused and intense. By the 1950s, there were organized nationalist parties that demanded political independence in almost every colony in Africa. Libya (1951) and Egypt (1952) were the first African nations to gain independence. Ghana (Gold Coast) in 1957 was the first country south of the Sahara to become independence. 1960 was the big year for African independence. As indicated on the attached map (Click on Map: African Independence), fourteen African countries gained their independence in 1960. By 1966, all but six African countries were independent nation-states…” READ MORE
I learned many years ago that Ghana was not the first African nation to gain Independence nor technically the first sub-Saharan African nation as the legacy has been proclaimed; however I like the rest of the world & history books do maintain that legacy in tact because as we once again address the Black African & Arab divide in Africa with the reporting of Egypt’s revolution, nations like Egypt(1952), Libya(1951), Tunisia(1956) & Morocco(1956), who gained their independence prior to Ghana’s 1957 Independence year had the same African identity problem back then as they do now, AKA the so called “Arab world” in Africa or “above the Sahara”. These nations hold their spot as members of the African Union with exception of Morocco who left in 1984. Egypt has set records in the past few years as the winners of the Africa Cup of Nations 7 times, so I say are these nations African & Arab by convenience or why can’t both Africans & Arabs accept the idea of being Arab & African as not being mutually exclusive identities?
Ethiopia is very much an African country & has never claimed otherwise, but when we speak of attaining independence, Ethiopia is one of two African countries that never lost their independence even though they were briefly occupied by Italy in 1936 , which separated Eritrea from Ethiopia. Liberia was the other African nation which was never colonized, but rather was founded & occupied by freed American slaves much like Israel is a nation settled upon by American & European Jews who claim their birthright & history on land that was already settled by its own natives upon their arrival.
In defense of Ghana’s legacy in the history books as being the first African nation below the Sahara to attain independence, one can see it as technically true because Ethiopia & Liberia were never colonized or taken over by European colonization & Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt & Libya are above the Sahara; however in honor of telling our history in totality & telling generations of Africans the truth about our history-we must lay out the full facts of our separations that continue to divide us as one Africa. There should be no sub saharan distinction or Arab & Black distinction for the purpose of accolades or political or social divisions, but the fact is there was & are these specific distinctions that only Africans alone can put an end to by telling the truth of our own stories.
Ghana may not have been the first independent nation in Africa, but there is no denying that its independence by far was one if not the most significant in terms of the total independence of Africa because Dr. Nkrumah in gaining Ghana’s independence not only set a precedence of ”yes we can” for Black Africa & her diaspora, but he also put his money where his mouth is by giving the educational leadership & financial support needed by the subsequent 17 African nations who gained their independence 3 years after Ghana had declared its freedom from British rule. Ghana will always be heralded as that black diamond that shined its star throughout Africa & the world showing that Black Africa was a power to be reckoned with & Dr. Nkrumah’s call for African unity shot so much fear through Africa’s former colonizers of what could come if that dream came true that he & those African leaders who fought for & shared his vision were deposed & assassinated one after the other until the spark & fire of the dream was extinguished.
When Dr. Krumah stood at Black Star Square AKA Independence Square & proclaimed -“We have won the battle and we again re-dedicate ourselves … Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa“, he not only meant it, but set the example for the world to see a new face of African leadership that was Black, proud & demanded & received worldwide respect. Dr. Nkrumah set Africa & its leaders on a path to be globally recognized as significant & equal players in both the political & economic realms.
Today, many African & Diasporan leaders credit & give great gratitude to Dr. Nkrumah’s leadership & long lasting global legacy that was the first of its significance & magnitude toward the path to freedom & unification for Africa & her Diaspora that far outweighs the technicality of specific dates because African Independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa. This is his legacy that should never be forgotten, belittled or dismissed in anyway by past or future generations as we enter a new wind of change for African liberation with our Arab brothers & sisters in Tunisia & Egypt leading the way once again.
” His focus on Pan africanist Unity was the main cause of his break with the United Gold Coast Convention who had invited him to Ghana to transform their movement into a national political party and he saw the CPP that he formed with the slogan self government now as the vehicle for achieving African unity which was why on the most important day of our lives in Ghana the day of our independence he make his most important declaration of intent – ‘the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa’.
The three all African peoples conferences that were organised after independence became the successor to the Manchester pan-africanist congress and were expected to lead us to fulfil his vision of African unity. The conferences were held in quick succession Accra in December 1958,Tunis in January 1960 and Cairo in March 1961.
The delegates came from all over Africa, the Caribbean and the Diaspora and all people of African descent, the delegates included legitimate governments, revolutionary governments in waiting of non independent African countries, radical governments that were pushing and supporting the armed struggle for liberation and essentially anyone who was anyone in the Pan-Africanist movement.
The initial conference organised by the eight independent African countries, Ghana, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt focused on the themes of unity and solidarity as the key to the fight against colonialism and the economic domination after colonialism and called for the formation of Africa-wide organisations of trade unions, youth movements and the setting up of a permanent secretariat, a Bureau of Liberatory Movement.
Rifts developed along the way to unity, the Monrovia Group was formed to attract 24 newly independent states that preferred a more gradualist approach and were suspicious of the speed for unity and they started organising their own conferences. But Nkrumah was in a hurry and formed a union with Guinea that was joined by Mali to become Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union. This union became the Union of African States with its own flag, the Ghana flag with three stars in the yellow, more stars to be added as other countries joined. Algeria, joined to coalesce into the Casablanca Group, the progressive group that was calling for immediate unity. In May 1963, 32 independent states of the Monrovia and Casablanca groups came together to form the Organisation of African Unity. The host of the conference Haille Sellasie noted
“We know that there are differences among us. Africans enjoy different cultures, distinctive values, special attributes. But we also know that unity can be and has been attained among men of the most disparate origins, that difference of race, of religion, of culture, of tradition, are no insuperable obstacles to the coming together of peoples. History teaches us that unity is strength and cautions us to submerge and overcome our difference in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to true African brotherhood and unity…. Unless the political liberty for which Africans have for long struggled is complemented and bolstered by a corresponding economic and social growth, the breath of life which sustains our freedom may flicker out.”
Nkrumah brought more clarity to the reasons in his address.
“No independent African State today by itself has a chance to follow an independent course of economic development, and many of us who have tried to do this have been almost ruined or have had to return to the fold of the former colonial rulers. This position will not change unless we have a unified policy working at the continental level… We need a unified economic planning for Africa. Until the economic power of Africa is in our hands, the masses can have no real concern and no real interest for safeguarding our security, for ensuring the stability of our regimes, and for bending their strength to the fulfilment of our ends. With our united resources energies and talents, we have the means, as soon as we show the will, to transform the economic structures of our individual states from poverty to that of wealth, from inequality to the satisfaction of popular needs. Only on a continental basis shall we be able to plan the popular utilization of all our resources for the full development of our continent.” READ MORE