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Kwame Nkrumah's Education in the US and the UK

Kwame Nkrumah's Education in the US and the UK

In January 1939, Ako Adjei arrived at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania to the welcome of K.A.B. Jones-Quartey, a st8udent from the Gold Coast whom Ako Adjei had known due to his work with the Accra Morning Post. Jones-Quartey had been accompanied to welcome Ako Adjei by another Gold Coast student who was introduced as Francis Nwia Kofi Nkrumah (Kwame Nkrumah) [1]. Nkrumah had sought entry to Lincoln University sometime before he began his studies. On March 1st, 1935, Nkrumah sent the school a letter noting that his application had been pending for more than a year. When Nkrumah finally arrived in New York in October 1935, almost penniless and took refuge with fellow West Africans in Harlem. He traveled to Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, where he enrolled despite lacking the funds for the full semester [2]. Founded before the Civil War, Lincoln University was America's oldest black college, and its special atmosphere inspired and comforted Nkrumah. He soon won a scholarship that provided for his tuition. He remained short of funds through his time in the United States and to make ends meet, he worked in menial jobs, including as a dishwasher. He also had a campus job. In the summers, he worked at physically demanding jobs; in shipyards and construction at sea. On Sundays, Nkrumah frequented the black Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia and New York and was sometimes asked to preach [3][4]. Nkrumah completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and sociology in 1939. Lincoln University then appointed Nkrumah as an assistant lecturer in philosophy, and he began to receive invitations to be a guest preacher in Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia and New York [5][6]. Also, in 1939, Nkrumah enrolled at Lincoln's Seminary and the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and in 1942, Nkrumah was initiated into the Mu chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Lincoln University [7]. Nkrumah gained a Bachelor of Theology degree from Lincoln in 1942, the top student in the course. He earned from Penn the following year a Master of Arts degree in philosophy and a Master of Science in Education [3, pgs 13-14]. Nkrumah also forged ties with black American intellectuals, for whom Africa was becoming, in this time of political change, an area of extreme interest. Unlike many new African leaders, who sought to emulate their European instructors, Nkrumah

While at Penn, Nkrumah worked with the linguist William Everett Welmers, providing the spoken material that formed the basis of the first descriptive grammar of his native Fante dialect of the Akan language [9]. Nkrumah spent many evenings listening to and arguing with street orators during the summertime in Harlem, New York. On the streets of Harlem were open forums, presided over by master speakers like Arthur Reed and his protege Ira Kemp. The young Carlos Cook, founder of the Garvey-oriented African Pioneer Movement was on the scene, also bringing a nighly message to his street followers. Harlem, the center of black life, thought and culture was where the student, Kwame Nkrumah walked and watched the black activist of his time. The streets of Harlem play a vital part in Nkrumah's American education [10]. Nkrumah was an activist student, organizing a group of expatriate African students in Pennsylvania and building it into the African Students Association of the United States and Canada, becoming its president [10]. In their meetings, Nkrumah urged a Pan-African strategy and played a major role in the Pan-African Conference held in New York in 1944, which urged the United States, at the end of the Second World War, to help ensure Africa becomes developed and free [3, pp 14-16][10[11]. During Nkrumah's Secondary education at Achimota in Accra, Gold Coast in 1925, he was also trained to become a teacher at the school. Here, Colombia University-educated deputy headmaster Kyegyir Aggrey exposed Nkrumah to the ideas of Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois. While Aggrey and others at Achimota taught that there should be close co-operation between the races in governing the Gold Coast, Nkrumah echoing Garvey, soon came to believe that only when the black race governed itself could there be harmony between the races [3][12]. Nkrumah's old teacher from Achimota Secondary died in the U.S. in1929, and in 1942 Nkrumah led traditional prayers for Aggrey at the graveside. This led to a break between Nkrumah and Lincoln University. After Nkrumah rose to prominence in the Gold Coast, he returned to Lincoln University in 1951 to accept an honorary degree [12, pp.62-65][13]. Nevertheless, Nkrumah's doctoral thesis remained uncompleted. Nkrumah had adopted the forename Francis while at the Amissano Seminary, in the Gold Coast, but in 1945 he took the name "Kwame Nkrumah"[3]. He read books about politics and divinity and tutored students in philosophy and also met members of the American-based Marxist intellectuals cohort, including Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James, Russian expatriate Raya Dunayevskaya, and Chinese-American Grace Lee Boggs [14]. Nkrumah later credited James with teaching him "how an underground movement worked" [17]. At Lincoln University Ako Adjei was housed at Houston Hall and played soccer for the University [1]. Ako Adjei shared the same room at Houston Hall with Jones-Quartey and their room was opposite Nkrumah's room, which was larger due to Nkrumah being a postgraduate student [1]. Ako Adjei formed a close relationship with Nkrumah despite the age gap that existed between them. Together with a group of students, they often had long heated discussions about the emancipation of African nations from colonial domination [1].

Ako Adjei moved to the UK in 1944 to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, and while in London played a prominent role in the West African Students Union (WASU) and became its president [15][16]. Nkrumah was also determined to go to London, wanting to continue his education there now that Second World War had ended [12]. Before Nkrumah left New York for London, his Trinidadian friend C.L.R. James sent a letter ahead of him, introducing Nkrumah to another Trinidad-born, George Padmore in London. In the letter he wrote, a young man is coming to you. He is not very bright, but nevertheless, do what you can for him because he's determined to throw Europeans out of Africa [17]. Nkrumah arrived in London in May 1945 and enrolled at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology. He withdrew after one term and the next year enrolled at University College, with the intent to write a philosophy dissertation on "Knowledge and Logical Positivism"[18]. But his advisor, A.J. Ayer declined to rate Nkrumah as a " first-class philosopher", indicating Nkrumah doesn't seem to him to have an analytical mind and seeks answers too quickly, and not concentrating very hard on his dissertation [17]. Finally, Nkrumah enrolled in, but did not complete, a study in Law at Gray's Inn [17].

A few weeks after Nkrumah arrived in London, Ako Adjei run into him during one of his rounds as the president of WASU. Nkrumah was then facing accommodation problems and Ako Adjei consequently hosted Nkrumah until he found accommodation for him. Ako Adjei then introduced Nkrumah to WASU and Kojo Botsio who later became Nkrumah's, right-hand man [15]. Nkrumah's arrival and active participation in the work of WASU invigorated the Union. It was against this background that WASU organized the Fifth Pan-African Congress which was held in Manchester in 1945 with George Padmore and Nkrumah as Joint Secretaries and Ako Adjei as one of the active organizers [19]. Nkrumah spent his time on political organizing. He and Padmore were among the principal organizers and co-treasurers of the Fifth Pan-African Congress. They agreed to pursue the federal United States of Africa and to pursue new African culture without tribalism [19].

In London, Ako Adjei enrolled at the London School of Economics and Political Science for his M.Sc. degree program while studying law at the Inner Temple. He passed all his Bar examinations and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in January 1947 [19]. In May 1947, Ako Adjei returned to the Gold Coast, and in June, he enrolled at the Gold Coast bar [19]. After a couple of days in Accra, Ako Adjei visited J.B. Danquah who was then with others discussing the possibility of forming a national political movement and he joined them in the discussions [19]. Ako Adjei like most Gold Coast students in Britain at the time was fed up with British Media reporting that, the Gold Coast was the most loyal colony [20]. Within days of his arrival in the Gold Coast, Ako Adjei accompanied J.B. Danquah to a meeting of the Planning Committee of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) [20]. He became a member of the Committee, and on August 4th, 1947 the convention was inaugurated at Saltpond, and at the Accra branch on August 22nd, 1947. Ako Adjei was elected Secretary with Edward Akufo-Addo as president and Emmanuel Obetsebi Lamptey as vice president. As members of the convention grew, the movement was converted to a political party [20]. As a result, there was a need for a full-time Secretary and J.B. Danquah suggested Ako Adjei, however, he declined the offer for reasons of running his African National Times newspaper and practicing law alongside. Ako Adjei subsequently suggested Kwame Nkrumah who was then running the West African National Secretariat (WANS) at 94 Gray's Inn, London. WANS was a Pan-Africanist movement founded by Nkrumah and based in London [19]. The U.S. State Department and MI5 kept an eye on Nkrumah and the WANS, focusing on their links with Communism [17].

Ako Adjei recommended Nkrumah for the General Secretary of UGCC job, because he had grown to know Nkrumah's organizational skills and capabilities and that he knew Nkrumah will be interested in the job. Before Adjei left London for the Gold Coast in May 1947, Nkrumah had told Ako Adjei to let him know of any job of interest in the Gold Coast. Because, Nkrumah was ready to take time-off, to work for some time and save some money, and then return to London to complete his studies at Gray's Inn. The convention accepted Ako Adjei's suggestion and he wrote to Nkrumah urging him to return home (i.e. the Gold Coast) immediately to take the job as a General Secretary of a recently formed political party, UGCC. Since the leading members were all successful professionals, they needed to pay someone to run the party, and their choice fell on Nkrumah at the suggestion of Ako Adjei. Nkrumah hesitate to take the job, realizing the UGCC was controlled by conservative interest but decided that the new position gives him huge political opportunities, and accepted. Ako Adjei later sent Nkrumah £100 which was provided by George Alfred Grant the founder, president, and financier of the UGCC for his trip to the Gold Coast [19]. After being questioned by British officials about his communist affiliations, Nkrumah boarded the MV Accra at Liverpool in November 1947 for the voyage home[3, pg. 27-28][13, pg. 316].


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