ArticlePDF Available

‘An Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy’, Southern Journal for Contemporary History, vo. 44, 2, 2019, pp. 29-54.

Matteo Grilli
Post-Doctoral Fellow,
International Studies Group,
University of the Free State;
DOI: https://dx.doi.
ISSN 0258-2422 (Print)
ISSN 2415-0509 (Online)
Southern Journal for
Contemporary History
2019 44(2):29-54
© Creative Commons With
Attribution (CC-BY)
is article examines the historiography on Nkrumah’s
Pan-Africanist ideology with particular reference to his
foreign policy and it provides an overview of the same
by dividing it in three periods. ese are introduced by an
analysis of Nkrumah’s and Nkrumaist literature. e first
period of historiography coincides with Nkrumah’s political
life between 1945 and 1972. During these years, pro and
anti-Nkrumah parties clashed vigorously. In the second
period which stretches between the 1970s and 1980s,
more detached analysis of the facts also began to emerge
but strong limitations remained. e third period, began
with the rehabilitation of Nkrumah’s figure in the early
1990s. is, together with the end of the Cold War and the
resurfacing of new primary sources allowed for a more
scientific analysis of Nkrumah’s times. e essay is built
on the consideration that the debate on the role of the
first President of Ghana in the liberation and unification
of the continent is still vibrant. Moreover, to this day, his
legacy is amply discussed both in academia and outside it.
As for the latter, Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanist proposals still
attracts followers all over Africa and even in the Diaspora.
e corpus of literature on Nkrumah and Nkrumaism is
vast. is essay provides the reader with an instrument
to understand, rationalise and categorise this enormous
production, trying also to highlight the latest developments
of the historiography on this subject. e article will also
provide the reader with useful information about the
primary sources, especially those that have become
available in recent years.
Keywords: Kwame Nkrumah, Nkrumaism, Nkrumahism,
African liberation, Pan-Africanism, Ghana’s foreign policy
30 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
In recent years, a new wave of interest has surrounded the figure of Kwame
Nkrumah (1909-1972) both within the academia and outside it. Much of
Nkrumah’s significance as a statesman and ideologue lies in his Pan-Africanist
convictions and policies, which envisaged the political and economic liberation
of the continent from the yoke of colonialism and neo-colonialism and the
establishment of a socialist continental Union of African States. His ideology
was based on black nationalist and Pan-Africanist thoughts and philosophies
integrated with Marxism, Gandhism (at least until 1960) and the strong belief in
“Positive Non-alignment” or “Positive Neutrality”. Since the early 1960s, all these
elements found a synthesis in an ideology for the revolutionary transformation
of Ghana and Africa: Nkrumaism.1 Several African nationalist movements got
inspired by Nkrumah’s policies, ideas, writings and speeches.2
Building on the historical, political and cultural importance of Nkrumah, this
article examines the historiography on Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanist ideology and
deals in particular with his foreign policy. e corpus of literature on Nkrumah
and Nkrumaism is vast. is essay provides the reader with an instrument to
understand, rationalise and categorise this enormous production, trying also to
highlight the latest developments of the historiography on this subject. e article
will also provide the reader with useful information about the primary sources,
especially those that have become available in recent years.
e article analyses three major periods which characterised the
historiographical debates on Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism. Section number two
will introduce these three periods by exploring the personal literary production
of the Ghanaian statesman and any Nkrumaist publication produced until his
death (1972). e third section describes the first period of historiography and
coincides with Nkrumah’s political life between 1945 and 1972. During these
years, pro and anti-Nkrumah parties clashed vigorously. e fourth section
of the article deals with the second period which stretches between the 1970s
and 1980s, in which the publication of numerous studies as well as memoires of
protagonist of Nkrumah’s times began to shed new light on the life, convictions
and policies of the Ghanaian leader. us, a more detached analysis of the facts
also began to emerge. Still, limitations on the access to primary sources as well
as the overall influence of “Afro-pessimism” in this period negatively affected the
debate. e final section explores the third period, which began when the figure
1 Nkrumaism can be found spelled also as “Nkrumahism”. e most common spelling at
Nkrumah’s time was the former.
2 See, M Grilli, Nkrumaism and African nationalism: Ghana’s Pan-African foreign policy in the age
of decolonisation (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); A Biney, “e legacy of Kwame Nkrumah in
retrospect”, e Journal of Pan African Studies 2 (3), 2008, p. 132.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 31
of Nkrumah started to be rehabilitated in Ghana in the early 1990s. is, together
with the end of the Cold War and the resurfacing of new primary sources allowed
for a more scientific analysis of Nkrumah’s times. Since then, new perspectives
are being explored and the figure of the Ghanaian statesman is at the centre of
interesting academic debates. Moreover, outside the academia, Nkrumah is again
internationally recognised as positively influential.
UNTIL 1972
Any analysis of the historiography on Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism has to begin
with his own works.3 Indeed, the Ghanaian statesman was both a politician and
a prolific writer and theorist. According to Rooney, “For the countries of Africa he
tried to be both Marx and Lenin. He produced the new ideology and attempted
to implement it”.4 Nkrumah used his vast literary production for spreading his
political message not only to Ghanaians but to all Africans. Of course, the fact
that he was deeply and daily engaged with the politics of Ghana and Africa raises
doubts about his credentials as the real author of all his writings.5 References to
ghost writers abound in the literature and, although almost impossible to prove,
these allegations cannot be easily dismissed.6
Nkrumah’s first political pamphlet Towards colonial freedom, written
between 1942 and 1945 already contained the core of his Pan-Africanist and
nationalist convictions expressed through Marxist analysis.7 One interesting detail
is the author’s opening citations of three very different intellectuals (Giuseppe
Mazzini, Wilhelm Liebknecht and Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford), showing the
vastness of his ideological reservoir. Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism was particularly
influenced by the Trinidadian Pan-Africanist George Padmore.8 e roots of
Ghana’s Pan-African policy can be dated back to 1945 when Nkrumah and
3 For an overview of Nkrumah’s literary production see, A Biney, e political and social thought of
Kwame Nkrumah (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 119 – 135 and 155-172.
4 D Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah: Vision and tragedy (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2007), p. 11.
5 I Wallerstein, “Implicit ideology in Africa: a review of books by Kwame Nkrumah”, e Journal of
Conflict Resolution 11 (4), 1967, p. 519.
6 See, for instance: SW ompson, Ghana’s foreign policy, 1957-1966: Diplomacy, ideology, and
the new state (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 48, 95, 267 and 320; KK Gaines,
American Africans in Ghana: Black expatriates and the civil rights era (Chapell Hill: e University
of North Carolina Press, 2006), p. 225; Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame
Nkrumah, p. 125.
7 K Nkrumah, Towards colonial freedom: Africa in the struggle against world imperialism (London:
Heinemann, 1962). For Nkrumah’s earlier writings see, M Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah: e years
abroad, 1935-1947 (Accra: Freedom Publications, 1996).
8 George Padmore (1903-1959) was a Trinidadian journalist, activist and Pan-Africanist. From 1957
until his death he worked in Ghana as “Adviser to the Prime Minister on African Affairs”.
32 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
Padmore first met in the United Kingdom and started working together for
the Fifth Pan-African Congress held in Manchester in the same year.9 It is no
coincidence that until Nkrumah published his autobiography Ghana (1957), the
most important texts pertaining Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism were Padmore’s
e Gold Coast revolution (1953) and Pan-Africanism or communism? (1956).10
In the Nkrumaist narrative, which also included Padmore’s writings, the
independence of the Gold Coast was not considered as an end in itself, but it was
immediately connected with the wider struggle for the attainment of African
liberation and unity. Nkrumah’s autobiography, also a “profoundly political
document”, includes direct references to the role of Ghana in the struggle for
African independence and unity.11 He argued that, “It is our duty as the vanguard
force to offer what assistance we can to those now engaged in the battles that we
ourselves have fought and won”.12 Even his subsequent work, I speak of freedom
(1961), emphasised not only Ghana’s victorious struggle for the independence but
also the role of the new nation for the unification and liberation of Africa.13
After Padmore’s death in 1959 and the first setbacks of the Pan-Africanist
struggle during the first phase of the Congo Crisis (1960-61), Nkrumah began
radicalising his views on Pan-Africanism.14 e book Africa must unite (1963)
represents the manifesto of this new phase, in which the Ghanaian leader called
for a united socialist continent, capable of managing its own affairs economically,
politically and militarily and thus fighting against Africa’s “greatest danger […]
neo-colonialism and its major instrument, balkanisation”.15 e book, dedicated to
Padmore, was not meant to be a mere reading for intellectuals. It was, instead,
circulated just before the 1963 founding conference of the Organisation of African
Unity (OAU) at Addis Ababa to present Nkrumah’s proposals for a political Union
of African States to be presented at the venue. By writing the book, Nkrumah
wanted to, “place developments in Ghana in the broader context of the African
9 See, K Nkrumah, Ghana: e autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah (Edinburgh: omas Nelson
and Sons Ltd, 1957), pp. 48-63; H Adi and M Sherwood (ed.), e 1945 Manchester Pan-African
Congress revisited (London: New Beacon Books, 1995); Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah, pp. 111-124.
10 G Padmore, e Gold Coast revolution (London: Dennis Dobson, 1953); G Padmore, Pan-
Africanism or communism? (London: Dennis Dobson, 1956).
11 Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame Nkrumah, p. 11. is expression is used by
Padmore himself in his review of the autobiography, in G Padmore, “Ghana — L’Autobiographie
de Kwame Nkrumah”, Présence Africaine 12, 1957, pp. 27-31. According to Ahmad Rahman,
Nkrumah used the autobiography to present “his life story as a heroic epic”, in AA Rahman,
e regime change of Kwame Nkrumah: Epic heroism in Africa and the diaspora (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 9.
12 Nkrumah, Ghana, p. 290.
13 K Nkrumah, I speak of freedom: A statement of African ideology (London: Heinemann, 1961).
14 See, F Gerits, “When the bull elephants fight”: Kwame Nkrumah, non-alignment, and Pan-
Africanism as an interventionist ideology in the Global Cold War (1957–66)”, e International
History Review 37 (5), 2015, pp. 951-969; Grilli, Nkrumaism.
15 K Nkrumah, Africa must unite (New York: Praeger, 1963), p. 173.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 33
revolution; and to explain my political philosophy based on my conviction of the
need for the freedom and unification of Africa and its islands”.16 His proposals,
which included the establishment of a continental government, continental
economic planning and an African common defence force, were rejected at the
conference by the majority of African leaders.17 Instead, the newly born OAU took a
very different form from the one envisaged by the Ghanaian leader. Nevertheless,
Africa must unite remains to this day one of the most interesting and radical call
for transformation of Pan-Africanism into a concrete political project.
In Consciencism, published in 1964, Nkrumah describes, in detail, his
political philosophy.18 A key concept of the book is the consideration that the
African continent needed a philosophy, called Consciencism, which could
work as a synthesis of what the historian Ali Mazrui later called Africa’s “Triple
Heritage”19, meaning African “way of life”, Christianity (including “the culture of
Western Europe”) and Islam.20 Meanwhile, Nkrumaism; a term never mentioned
in Consciencism was taking its final form and became the official ideology of
the one-party state established by the Osagyefo in Ghana in January 1964.21
Neo-Colonialism: the last stage of imperialism (1965) was Nkrumah’s last book
before his political demise.22 In this influential treatise on economics and politics,
Nkrumah presented all the reasons why his battle against neo-colonialism was
of major importance, and that this fight had to be considered as important as the
one against colonialism, apartheid and settler regimes.
Until the coup of 24 February 1966, the Ghanaian government and agencies
printed and distributed thousands of copies of Nkrumah’s speeches, articles
and pamphlets which are important sources for understanding Nkrumah’s
political thought.23 e Bureau of African Affairs, Nkrumah’s main Pan-Africanist
institution produced, printed and distributed among African freedom fighters,
political publications such as Voice of Africa, e Spark, Freedom Fighter and
16 Nkrumah, Africa must unite, p. xi.
17 Z Červenka, e Organisation of African Unity and its charter (London: C.Hurst & Company,
1968), p. 9.
18 K Nkrumah, Consciencism: Philosophy and ideology for decolonisation and development with
particular reference to the African revolution (London: Heinemann, 1964).
19 AA Mazrui, e Africans: A triple heritage (Boston: Little Brown, 1986); AA Mazrui, Nkrumah’s
legacy and African’s triple heritage: Between globalisation and counter terrorism (Accra: Ghana
Universities Press, 2004).
20 Nkrumah, Consciencism, p. 68. Although not specified in the book, this concept is clearly based
on the thought of the early Pan-Africanist Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832-1912) as expressed in his
Christianity, Islam and the negro race (London: W. B. Whittingham & Co., 1887).
21 Osagyefo, translated "the redeemer" in Akan, is a title attributed to Nkrumah.
22 K Nkrumah, Neo-colonialism: the last stage of imperialism (London: omas Nelson, 1965).
23 A collection of Nkrumah’s speeches is currently published as K Nkrumah, Selected speech of
Kwame Nkrumah (compiled by S Obeng), 2 Volumes, (Accra: Afram Publications, 2009).
34 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
e Pan-Africanist Review.24 Articles by Nkrumah as well by the main protagonist
of Ghana’s political and cultural life were published in these reviews. Other
important publications in this period were the ones produced by Nkrumah’s
supporters and members of his government. Erica Powell’s Kwame Nkrumah of
the new Africa (1961), Alex Quaison-Sackey’s Africa unbound (1963), Michael Dei-
Anang’s Ghana resurgent (1964) and Kwesi Armah’s Africa’s golden road (1965)
are such examples.25 All of them tried to present Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism as
the only viable solution for the challenges that the continent was facing. In spite
of lacking objectivity, these books are still interesting as they offer an overview
on Nkrumah’s ideology during his rule. e mind of Africa (1962) by the Ghanaian
philosopher William Emmanuel Abraham complete the list of publications that
can be considered as clearly sympathetic to Nkrumah.26 In the book, Abraham
explains the philosophical basis of African tradition and the need for African
unity. In Abraham’s own words (2015), “one issue which was at the heart both of
Nkrumah’s vision and e mind of Africa is Pan-Africanism”.27
Between 1966 and 1972, from his office in Conakry where he went into exile
after the coup, Nkrumah kept writing and coordinated the publishing of all his
previous and new materials through a publishing company he himself established
called Panaf.28 In his new works, Nkrumah explained in more details the dangers
of neo-colonialism and the solutions Pan-Africanism could offer.29 In 1968, he
also published Handbook of revolutionary warfare, making a clear statement in
favour of armed struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism.30
24 A selection of articles from e Spark was published in a book form as e Spark Editors (ed.),
Some essential features of Nkrumaism (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1964).
25 E Powell, Kwame Nkrumah of the new Africa (London: Nelson, 1961); A Quaison-Sackey, Africa
unbound: Reflections of an African statesman (New York: Praeger, 1963); M Dei-Anang, Ghana
resurgent (Accra: Waterville Publishing House, 1964); K Armah, Africa’s golden road (London:
Heinemann, 1965).
26 WE Abraham, e mind of Africa (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1962). Abraham (1934)
collaborated with Nkrumah in the writing of Consciencism. Prof. AJ Ayer maintained that
Abraham was the real author of the book. See, Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame
Nkrumah, p. 125.
27 WE Abraham, e mind of Africa (Accra: Sub-Saharan Publishers, 2015), p. vii.
28 Created in 1967 due to the fact the previous publishers were refusing to work again with the
deposed leader.
29 K Nkrumah, Challenge of the Congo (New York: International Publishers, 1967); K Nkrumah, Voice
from Conakry (London: Panaf, 1967); K Nkrumah, Dark days in Ghana (New York: International
Publishers, 1968); K Nkrumah, Class struggle in Africa (New York: International Publishers, 1970).
Other pamphlets were also published by Panaf. See for instance; K Nkrumah, A Call for Positive
Action and armed struggle (London: Panaf, 1968); K Nkrumah, Ghana: e way out, (London:
Panaf, 1968) both of which were later reprinted in K Nkrumah, e struggle continues (London:
Panaf, 1973).
30 K Nkrumah, Handbook of revolutionary warfare: a guide to the armed phase of the African
revolution (London: Panaf, 1968).
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 35
In 1968, Nkrumah met Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture in
honour of Nkrumah and Sekou Touré) in Conakry. ere, the two Pan-Africanists
established the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (AARP), an Nkrumaist
Pan-Africanist organisation which is still active to this date. A year later,
Carmichael published his first article on Pan-Africanism, stating,
I have looked and I have seen. I have been waiting for and seeking for a
black man outside of our generation who knows what is going on. I have
found one – Dr. Nkrumah. He knows precisely what the struggle is. We
should bring Dr. Kwame Nkrumah back to Ghana. I would not deny that
he made some mistakes. But he was the first person to talk about Pan-
Africanism as a concrete term.31
Unfortunately for Nkrumah, Conakry did not become his “Elba”.32
e Ghanaian leader died in Romania in April 1972 without setting foot again in his
motherland. In his will, Nkrumah appointed June Milne, his research and editorial
assistant since 1957, his literary executrix. As a consequence, Milne took over the
control of Panaf and kept publishing Nkrumah’s works, including the posthumous
Revolutionary path (1973) and Rhodesia file (1976), until her retirement in 1987.33
HIS DEATH (1947-1972)
Since the late 1940s, the Gold Coast began to attract several scholars interested
in the study of the ongoing impressive and unprecedented changes happening in
the colonial state and society. F.M. Bourret’s e Gold Coast (1949), later re-edited
in 1951 and again in 1960 under the title e road to independence, 1919-1957 is
one of the first and most important studies on the transition from colonialism to
independence in the West African country.34 Apter’s Gold Coast in transition (1955)
also deals with the same subject but goes even further analysing in detail, the
role of Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in driving the change.35
e following two re-editions of the book under the title Ghana in transition (1963
and 1972) were updated by Apter with further considerations on the evolution
of Nkrumaism and its application in Ghana.36 To this day, this work is still one of
31 S Carmichael, “Pan- Africanism- Land and power”, e Black Scholar 1 (1), 1969, p. 41.
32 e reference to Elba is made in KW Grundy, “Nkrumah, Tshombe & Nixon. A review of: Dark
Days in Ghana by Kwame Nkrumah”, Africa Today 16 (1), 1969, p. 22.
33 K Nkrumah, Revolutionary path (London: Panaf, 1973); K Nkrumah, Rhodesia file (London:
Panaf, 1976).
34 FM Bourret, Ghana: the road to independence, 1919-1957 (London: Oxford University Press, 1960).
35 DE Apter, e Gold Coast in transition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955).
36 Apter, e Gold Coast in transition.
36 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
the most important treaties on Nkrumah’s ideology and its consequences on the
Ghanaian state and society. Meanwhile, several authors gave their contribution to
the study of the independence process in Gold Coast/Ghana.37
In 1955, the journalist Bankole Timothy published Kwame Nkrumah: his
rise to power, the first complete biographical work on the African leader.38 While
limited in sources and analysis, this work included, notably, interesting criticisms
on Nkrumah’s undemocratic practices. Later, he expanded his analysis in the
two revised editions (1963 and 1981, the latter under the title Kwame Nkrumah:
from cradle to grave). Even more critical was Dennis Austin whose Politics in
Ghana (1964) is still one of the fundamental text on the transition from colonial
Gold Coast to independent Ghana.39 In this seminal book, Austin, who lived and
taught in Ghana between 1949 and 1959, did not hide his strong criticism against
Nkrumah and for the first time he amply referred to the bitter and often uneven
fight between the Ghanaian leader and the political opposition, including the
traditional authorities. With regard to Nkrumah’s Pan-African policy, Austin
maintained that, “Ghana was isolated within the Pan-African movement”.40
He also ridiculed Nkrumah’s Africa must unite, labelling the book as, “an
inelegant mixture of rambling argument and unrelated comment on Ghanaian
politics, but remarkable for his obsession both with “neo-colonialism” [...] and
its simpliciste (italics by the author) belief in the possibility of a “major political
union of Africa’”.41 Since the late 1950s, Nkrumah’s ideology was also included
in several important studies on the history and evolution of Pan-Africanism.42
Other studies published during Nkrumah’s time in office (1957-1966) analysed his
policies, ideology and views on African socialism.43
e fall of Nkrumah in February 1966 at the hands of the National
Liberation Council (NLC) opened up debate among journalists, political scientists
37 See for instance, HL Bretton, “Current political thought and practice in Ghana”, American Political
Science Review 52, 1(1958), pp. 46-63; R Soloway, “e new Gold Coast”, International Affairs 31
(4), 1955, pp. 469-476.
38 B Timothy, Kwame Nkrumah: His rise to power (London: Allen & Unwin, 1955).
39 D.Austin, Politics in Ghana, 1946-1960 (London: Oxford University Press, 1964).
40 Austin, Politics in Ghana, 1946-1960, p. 395.
41 Austin, Politics in Ghana, 1946-1960, p. 398.
42 See for instance, C Legum, Pan-Africanism: A short political guide (London: Pall Mall Press,
1962); R Emerson, “Pan-Africanism”, International Organisation 16 (2), 1962, pp. 275-290;
G Shepperson, “Pan-Africanism and “Pan-Africanism”: Some historical notes”, Phylon 23 (4),
1962, pp. 346-358; I Wallerstein, Africa: e politics of unity (New York: Random House, 1967);
I Geiss, e Pan-African movement (London: Methuen, 1974); CRL James, A history of Pan-
African revolt (Washington DC: Drum & Spear Press, 1969).
43 KW Grundy, “Nkrumah’s eory of Underdevelopment: an Analysis of Recurrent emes”, World
Politics 15 (3), 1963, pp. 438-454; L Tiger, “Nkrumah’s Ghana and the theory of charisma”,
Bulletin of African Studies in Canada 2 (1), 1964, pp. 2-10; C Legum, “What kind of radicalism
for Africa?”, Foreign Affairs 43 (2), 1965, pp. 237-250; W Friedland and C Rosberg (ed.), African
socialism (London: Oxford University Press, 1964).
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 37
and historians, who published many articles and books on Nkrumaism and
the future of Pan-Africanism. Bob Fitch and Mary Oppenheimer’s Ghana: End
of an illusion (1966) criticised the fallen regime from a Marxist perspective.44
e political scientist, Ali Mazrui and the journalist Russel Warren Howe instead
examined the subject from a liberalist perspective. eir articles published in
the Ugandan magazine Transition in 1966, respectively “Nkrumah: the Leninist
Czar” and “Did Nkrumah favour Pan-Africanism?” are to this day great classics
of the debate concerning Nkrumah and Nkrumaism.45 Mazrui tried to differentiate
between Nkrumah the “African” and Nkrumah the “Ghanaian”, stating quite
clearly that, “By working hard to keep Pan-Africanism warm as a political ideal,
Nkrumah was a great African. But by the tragedy of his domestic excesses after
independence, Nkrumah fell short of becoming a great Ghanaian”.46 Responding
to Mazrui, Warren Howe instead refused to recognise the fallen President of Ghana
as a “great African” maintaining, “Nkrumah’s African policy, since Ghanaian
independence, was nine long years of persistent sabotage of anything tending
toward Black African harmony, cooperation, or unity, using any tool that came to
hand”.47 e two articles unleashed an interesting debate among the authors and
the readers of Transition, who expressed themselves through letters to them.48
Even Nkrumah wrote to Transition in response to Mazrui’s article, but just to state
that while admiring the skills of the latter he was not provoked enough to reply.49
Mazrui also published shortly afterwards Towards a Pax Africana (1967) as part of
his overview of contemporary African political thought and he examined in depth
Nkrumah’s ideology and significance.50
In 1966, the NLC used the impounded materials of the Bureau of African
Affairs archive to prepare two booklets to discredit the former government,
thereby justifying the coup itself with the intent of regaining Ghana’s credibility
in the eyes of moderate African states.51 ese booklets are: Nkrumah’s
subversion in Africa and Nkrumah’s deception of Africa. For years, these have
44 B Fitch and M Oppenheimer, Ghana: End of an illusion (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966);
See also, J Mohan, “Nkrumah and Nkrumahism”, Socialist Register 4 (4), 1967, pp. 8–17.
45 AA Mazrui, “Nkrumah: the Leninist Czar”; WR Howe, “Did Nkrumah favor Pan-Africanism?”,
Transition 27, 1966, pp. 13-15.
46 Mazrui, “Nkrumah: the Leninst Czar”, p. 17.
47 Howe, “Did Nkrumah favor Pan-Africanism?” p. 13.
48 AA Mazrui et al., “Polemics”, Transition 75 (76), 1997, pp. 134-154. See also, MO West, “Kwame
Nkrumah and Ali Mazrui: An analysis of the 1967 Transition debate”, e Journal of Pan African
Studies 8 (6), 2015, pp. 122-140.
49 See, Letter from Secretary of Kwame Nkrumah to Transition, published in Transition 27, 1966;
See also, Mazrui, Nkrumah’s legacy, p. 12.
50 Mazrui, Towards a Pax Africana.
51 For an overview of the papers of the Bureau of African Affairs currently kept in Ghanaian
archives see, M Grilli, “Nkrumah, nationalism, and Pan-Africanism: e Bureau of African Affairs
collection”, History in Africa 44, 2017, pp. 295-307.
38 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
been the only known sources for studying the history of the Bureau and the
most controversial Pan-Africanist policies of Nkrumah’s government. Also in
1966, Colonel Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa, one of NLC’s leaders and head of state of
Ghana in 1969-1970 published his memories of the coup, explaining the motives
that drove the military towards it.52 Interestingly, in the introduction to the book,
Tibor Szamuely, a former lecturer of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute of
Winneba (KNII), defined Nkrumaism as, “basically much nearer to the fascist than
to the communist pattern”.53
Quite critical against the fallen regime was also Henry Bretton’s e rise
and fall of Kwame Nkrumah: a study of personal rule in Africa (1966).54 Building
on his profound knowledge of Ghana, Bretton analysed in depth, the reasons
why Nkrumah’s government evolved into a regime and how the Ghanaian
leader justified his personal absolute power through ideology and how he
built his “personal political machine”.55 Few years later even Peter Omari, a
sociologist who worked for Nkrumah’s government, published another critical
study on Nkrumah’s rule in Ghana: Kwame Nkrumah: the anatomy of an African
dictatorship (1970).56 Between the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the wake of
Mazrui and Bretton’s analysis, several authors wrote about Nkrumah’s choice of
the one-party state option, which according to his detractors was meant to be
extended by the Ghanaian leader to the whole continent.57 Aristide Zolberg is the
author of interesting writings on the matter.58 He also edited together with Foster
the volume, Ghana and the Ivory Coast: Perspectives on modernisation (1971)
in which several authors, including the editors, analysed the differences and
similarities of Nkrumah’s Ghana and Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s Ivory Coast after
the famous wager between the two leaders was made in 1957.59 Other important
52 AA Afrifa, e Ghana coup: 24th February 1966 (London: F. Cass, 1967).
53 T Szamuely, Introduction to Afrifa, e Ghana Coup, p. 15.
54 HL Bretton, e rise and fall of Kwame Nkrumah : A study of personal rule in Africa (New York:
Praeger, 1966).
55 Bretton, e rise and fall of Kwame Nkrumah, p. 7.
56 P Omari, Kwame Nkrumah: e anatomy of an African dictatorship (London: C. Hurst, 1970).
57 See, DG MacRae, “Nkrumahism: Past and future of an ideology”, Government and Opposition 1
(4), 1966, pp. 535-546; P Jr Mahoney, “Nkrumah in retrospect”, e Review of Politics 30 (2),
1968, pp. 246-250; S Ryan, “e theory and practice of African one partyism: e CPP re-
examined”, Canadian Journal of African Studies 4 (2), 1970, pp. 145-172.
58 See, in particular, AR Zolberg, Creating political order: e party states of West Africa (Chicago:
Rand McNally & Co, 1966).
59 P Foster and AR Zolberg (ed.), Ghana and the Ivory Coast: Perspectives on modernisation
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971); On the same subject see also; J Woronoff, West
African wager: Houphouët versus Nkrumah (Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1972). See also,
E Prosperetti, “e hidden history of the West African wager: Or, how comparison with Ghana
made Côte d’Ivoire”, History in Africa 45, 2018, pp. 29–57.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 39
studies analysed other aspects of Nkrumah’s rule as well as his overthrowing, a
topic which would attract much interest in the next decades.60
In 1969, the American historian and political scientist Scott W. ompson
published Ghana’s foreign policy.61 As the title suggests, it was the first ever
published study on Ghana’s external projection, focusing, in particular, on the
various ways in which Nkrumah tried to put Pan-Africanism into practice in
a coherent foreign policy. Although impressive in the volume of information
provided to the reader, this study has evident flaws. First of all, while the author
had to make an extensive use of oral testimonies due to the lack of written
primary sources, he used them largely uncritically.62 Secondly, the Cold War
ideological confrontation as well as ompson’s personal political beliefs strongly
inform the contents of the study.63 As a result, the book appears to some readers
as biased against Nkrumah, whose Pan-Africanist foreign policy is labelled quite
simply as “Opéra Bouffe”.64 Yet, despite these shortcomings, ompson’s study is
still the most cited on Ghana’s foreign policy under Kwame Nkrumah.
4. MEMORY AND OBLIVION (1972-1991)
At the time of Nkrumah’s death (27 April 1972), the optimistic first season of
African post-independence period, associated with the modernisation paradigm,
was already fading away and the season of “Afro-pessimism” (dependency/
underdevelopment school) was beginning.65 For many years, Nkrumah’s figure,
once hugely popular in Ghana and Africa partially lost its appeal. Despite few
60 On the coup, see, KA Ocran, A myth is broken: An account of the Ghana coup d’etat of 24th February
1966 (New York: Humanities Press, 1968); HL Bretton, “e overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah”
in A Gyorgy (ed.), Problems in international relations (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1970),
pp. 277-299. Other interesting studies published in this period include, R Genoud, Nationalism and
economic development in Ghana (New York: Prager, 1969); R Addo-Fening, “Gandhi and Nkrumah:
A study of non-violence and non-co-operation campaigns in India and Ghana as an anti-colonial
strategy”, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 13 (1), 1972, pp. 65- 85; EO Saffu,
“e Bases of Ghana-Upper Volta relations during the Nkrumah regime”, Canadian Journal of African
Studies 4 (2), 1970, pp. 195-206; FA Botchway, Political development and social change in Ghana:
Ghana under Nkrumah, a study of the influence of Kwame Nkrumah and the role of idea in rapid
social change (Buffalo: Black Academy Press, 1972); J Mohan, “Ghana, the Congo, and the United
Nations”, e Journal of Modern African Studies 7 (3), 1969, pp. 369-406.
61 ompson, Ghana’s foreign policy.
62 For comments on ompson’s use of primary sources see, J Mohan, Review of Scott ompson’s
“Ghana’s foreign policy”, e Journal of Modern African Studies 8 (1), 1970, pp. 158-159;
Grilli, Nkrumaism.
63 Mohan, Review of Scott ompson’s “Ghana’s foreign policy”, p. 157; Grilli, Nkrumaism. For a
similarly critical review of ompson’s Ghana’s foreign policy see, K Ankomah’s Book review,
e American Political Science Review 64 (3), 1970, pp. 979-980.
64 ompson, Ghana’s Foreign Policy, p. 418.
65 P Nugent, Africa since independence (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 5.
40 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
attempts to revitalise it, political Pan-Africanism also seemed to be weakening, or
at least remaining crystallised for better days to come.66 In Ghana, the memory of
the Osagyefo was evoked briefly and contradictorily by the dictator Ignatius Kutu
Acheampong (1972-1978) and more openly by President Hilla Limann (1979-81).
In general, however, Nkrumah’s policies and ideas were considered in Ghana as
outdated if not dangerous and in many ways he was “ridiculed”, at least until
the mid-1980s.67
Once Nkrumah’s body was returned to Conakry, a two-day state funeral
took place in Guinea (13-14 May 1972). In the first day of mourning, a symposium
was held in the Palais du Peuple in the Guinean capital city, where Sekou
Touré, Amilcar Cabral, Koktar Ould Daddah and Sourou-Migan Apithy paid their
respects to the memory of the late Pan-Africanist leader.68 Cabral’s allocution
which was published in 1973 in Présence Africaine, stressed that there was
no need to “rehabilitate” a figure who was only a victim of treason.69 Cabral
maintained, “Kwame Nkrumah will live again each dawn in the hearts and in
the determination of freedom fighters, and in the actions of all true African
patriots”.70 e same issue of Présence Africaine where Cabral’s speech was
published was entirely dedicated to Nkrumah. In it, many authors, including
omas Hodgkin and Samuel Ikoku, discussed Nkrumah’s contribution to Pan-
Africanism and African politics or celebrated the memory of the deceased leader
with poetry and personal thoughts.71 Other interesting comments on Nkrumah’s
death and heritage were also published in the same period.72
Meanwhile, a significant number of memoires of protagonist and eye-
witnesses of Nkrumah’s times began to emerge. is can be considered as the
peculiar tract of this period. Some memoires were published effectively before the
Osagyefo’s death, in particular: H.T. Alexander’s, African Tightrope (1965), Jeffrey
Bing’s Reap the whirlwind (1968) and Samuel Ikoku’s Le Ghana de Nkrumah
66 Nyerere remained the main proponent of Pan-Africanism after Nkrumah’s death. e Sixth Pan-
African Congress was organised in Tanzania in 1974 but it was not followed by another one before
20 years. e Seventh Pan-African Congress took place in 1994 in Uganda. See Biney, “e legacy
of Kwame Nkrumah”, pp. 145-147.
67 Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 9.
68 J Milne, Kwame Nkrumah : the Conakry years, his life and letters (London: Panaf, 1990), p. 263.
69 A Cabral, “Allocution prononcée à l’occasion de la journée Kwame Nkrumah”, Présence Africaine
85, 1973, pp. 5-10.
70 Cabral, “Allocution prononcée à l’occasion de la journée Kwame Nkrumah p. 9; also quoted in
translation in Milne, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 263.
71 SG Ikoku, “A tribute to Kwame Nkrumah”, Présence Africaine 85, 1973, pp. 32-38; T Hodgkin,
“Nkrumah’s radicalism”, Présence Africaine 85, 1973, pp. 62-72.
72 J Herve, “Kwame Nkrumah: His last views of African struggle”, e Black Scholar 4 (10 ), 1973,
pp. 24-27; KP Tunteng, “Kwame Nkrumah and the African revolution”, Civilisations 23/24 (3/4),
1973/1974, pp. 233-47; AA Mazrui, “Nkrumah, Obote and Vietnam”, Transition 43, 1973, pp. 36-39.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 41
(1971).73 e majority, however, were published afterwards and they, as well
as the previous ones, added fundamental information on the life, beliefs and
policies of the late first President of Ghana. ese included: Ras Makonnen’s Pan-
Africanism from within (1973), Michael Dei-Anang’s e administration of Ghana’s
foreign relations (1975), Kwesi Armah’s Ghana: Nkrumah’s legacy (1975), Tawia
Adamafio’s By Nkrumah’s side (1982), Erica Powell’s Private secretary (1984)
and Kofi Batsa’s e Spark (1985)74. Considering his role as lecturer of the Kwame
Nkrumah Ideological Institute, even K. Afari-Gyan’s publications of this period
can be considered as personal accounts on Nkrumah’s times.75 e famous Pan-
Africanist C.R.L. James published a book (Nkrumah and the Ghana revolution, 1977)
which is at the same time a reflection on the contribution of the late Ghanaian
leader to Pan-Africanism and African nationalism and a personal account of his
relationship with both him and Padmore.76 Other memories of non-Ghanaians,
particularly political activists who visited or worked in Ghana between 1951 and
1966, also include interesting references on Nkrumah.77
Important studies which predated these publications like ompson’s could
not of course include the new information offered to the readers by these memoires.
It is for this reason that, to this day, these books are so important for any analysis
of Nkrumah’s government and ideology. In particular, any study on Nkrumah’s
foreign policy and Pan-Africanism must take into consideration memories such as
Ikoku, Makonnen and Batsa’s which offer invaluable insights into the work of the
most controversial Pan-Africanist institutions of Nkrumah’s government (such as
the Bureau of African Affairs and the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute) of which
until very recently there was a dearth of archival records.
73 HT Alexander, African tightrope (London: Pall Mall Press, 1965); G Bing, Reap the whirlwind:
An account of Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana from 1950 to 1966 (London: Mcgibbon & Kee, 1968);
SG Ikoku (J Sago), Le Ghana de Nkrumah, autopsie de la Ire République 1957-1966 (Paris: François
Maspero, 1971).
74 R Makonnen and K King, Pan-Africanism from within; M Dei-Anang, e administration of
Ghana’s foreign relations, 1957-1966: A personal memoir (London: Athlone Press, 1975);
K Armah, Ghana: Nkrumah’s legacy (London: Rex Collings, 1974); T Adamafio, By Nkrumah’s side
- e labour and the wounds (London: Westcoast & Collings, 1982); E Powell, Private secretary /
female/Gold Coast (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1984); K Batsa, e Spark : Times behind me –
From Kwame Nkrumah to Limann (London: Rex Collings, 1985).
75 K Afari-Gyan, e political ideas of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: African Heritage Studies, 1976);
K Afari-Gyan, “Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore and W.E.B. Du Bois”, Research Review 7 (1/2),
1991, pp. 1-10; K Afari-Gyan, “Nkrumah’s ideology”. In: K Arhin (ed.), e life and work of Kwame
Nkrumah (Accra, Sedco, 1991), pp. 165-179.
76 CRL James, Nkrumah and the Ghana revolution (London: Allison & Busby, 1977).
77 See, for instance, R Wright, Black power: A record of reactions in a land of pathos (New York:
Harper, 1954); A Hutchinson, Road to Ghana (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1960); JA Oginga
Odinga, Not yet uhuru (London: Heinemann, 1967); M Angelou, All God’s children need traveling
shoes (New York: Random House, 1986).
42 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
Despite the lack of primary sources and the decreased interest for
Nkrumah, political scientists and historians kept analysing the question “what
went wrong?”.78 Notable are Killick and Jeffries’ contribution for what concerns
economics and Jones’ for what concerns politics.79 Interestingly, new biographies
were published, trying to offer new insights of the life of Kwame Nkrumah, for
instance, during his American years or during his exile.80 Interesting works,
especially by Opoku Agyeman and Olajide Aluko added new information about
crucial aspects of Nkrumah’s foreign policy, dealing respectively with East Africa
and Nigeria.81 e former studied in particular the relationship between Nkrumah,
Obote, Kenyatta, Mboya and Nyerere. His focus was then in identifying how and
why Nkrumah worked against the East African Federation. Aluko instead focused
his analysis on the struggle for leadership and influence in West Africa between
the two former “sister colonies”. e reciprocal distrust of Ghanaians and
Nigerians in the previous decades was rooted in the harsh confrontation which
the two countries entertained even before independence. Various studies were
instead devoted to the coup that ousted Nkrumah, since the subject allowed
reflections on the actual freedom of the African nations and the influence if not
the direct intervention of superpowers in the internal affairs of independent
78 See for instance, HH Werlin, “e consequences of corruption: e Ghanaian experience”, Political
Science Quarterly 88 (1), 1973, pp. 71-85; HL Bretton, Power and politics in Africa (Chicago:
Aldine, 1973).
79 T Killick, Development economics in action: A study of economic policies in Ghana (London:
Heinemann, 1978); R Jeffries, Class, power and ideology in Ghana: e railwaymen of Sekondi
(Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1978); T Jones, Ghana’s first republic, 1960-1966:
e pursuit of the political kingdom (London: Metheuen, 1976).
80 B Davidson, Black star: A view of the life and times of Kwame Nkrumah (New York: Praeger,
1974); JH Clarke, “Kwame Nkrumah: His years in America”, e Black Scholar 6 (2), 1974,
pp. 9-16; Y Smertin, Kwame Nkrumah (New York: International Publishers, 1987); Milne, Kwame
Nkrumah; AB Assensoh, Kwame Nkrumah: Six years in exile, 1966-1972 (Ilfracombe: Stockwell
Publishers, 1978); AB Assensoh, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana: His formative years and the shaping
of his nationalism and Pan-Africanism, 1935- 1948 (Devon: Stockwell Publishers, 1990).
81 O Aluko, “After Nkrumah: Continuity and change in Ghana’s foreign policy”, Journal of Opinion,
5(1), pp. 55–62; O Aluko, Ghana and Nigeria 1957-70: A study in inter-African discord (New York:
Barnes & Noble Books, 1976); O Agyeman, “e Osagyefo, the Mwalimu, and Pan-Africanism:
A study in the growth of a dynamic concept”, e Journal of Modern African Studies 13 (4), 1975,
pp. 653-675; O Agyeman, “Kwame Nkrumah and Tom Mboya: Non-Alignment and Pan-African
trade unionism”, Presence Africaine 103, 1977, pp. 59-85; O Agyeman, “e supermarxists
and Pan-Africanism”, Journal of Black Studies 8 (4), 1978, pp. 489-510; O Agyeman, “Kwame
Nkrumah’s presence in A.M. Obote’s Uganda: A study in the convergence of international and
comparative politics”, Transition 48, 1975, pp. 13-18 and 20-24; Opoku Agyeman later re-edited
these articles along with new materials in O Agyeman, Nkrumah’s Ghana and East Africa: Pan-
Africanism and Africa interstate relations (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992).
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 43
African nations.82 Finally, a number of other works kept examining Nkrumah’s
political figure and his ideology.83
From the mid-1980s a renewed interest in Nkrumah and Nkrumaism began
to emerge in Ghana. Rooney, the author of a new biography on the Ghanaian
leader Kwame Nkrumah: e political kingdom in the third world (1988),
immediately observed this change, “throughout much of this time [since the
coup] Nkrumah and his rule were ridiculed and derided. In the 1980s, however,
the perspective is shifting”.84 Rooney’s work as well as other contemporary
writings certified that the debate on Nkrumah was far from being over, that new
path of research could be undertaken and that Nkrumaism had still appeal among
activists as well as intellectuals.85
Two symbolical events certified the passage towards a new phase of the
debate on Nkrumah and Nkrumaism in Ghana. e first was the publication, in
1991, of the papers of the symposium “e life and work of Kwame Nkrumah”,
organised by the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ghana between
the 27 May and the 1 June 1985.86 Regardless of the effective value of the
publication itself, which is remarkable, it symbolised that Nkrumah’s times could
be openly discussed in Ghana both in the Academia and outside it. e second
symbolical event of this period was the construction of the Kwame Nkrumah
Mausoleum in Accra in 1992 and the consequent transfer of the body of the
late first president of Ghana from his hometown of Nkroful to the new grave,
82 D Austin and R Luckham (ed.), Politics of the sword: A personal memoir on military involvement
in Ghana and of problems of military government (London: Rex Collings, 1977). References on
the involvement of the American Central Intelligence Agency in the coup against Nkrumah can
be found in J Stockwell, In search of enemies: A CIA story (New York: Norton, 1978); See also,
P Barker, Operation cold chop: e coup that toppled Nkrumah (Tema: Ghana Publ. Co., 1979);
S Baynham, e military and politics in Nkrumah’s Ghana (London: Boulder, Westview, 1988).
83 BS Monfils, “A Multifaceted image: Kwame Nkrumah’s extrinsic rhetorical strategies”, Journal
of Black Studies 7 (3), 1977, pp. 313-330; S Metz, “In Lieu of orthodoxy: e socialist theories
of Nkrumah and Nyerere”, e Journal of Modern African Studies 20 (3), 1982, pp. 377-392;
Reflections on Nkrumah’s role within the Pan-African movement can be also found in
M Tsomondo, “From Pan-Africanism to socialism: e modernisation of an African liberation
ideology”, A Journal of Opinion 5 ( 4), 1975, pp. 39-46; VB ompson, Africa and Unity:
e evolution of Pan-Africanism (London: Longman, 1977).
84 Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 9.
85 MW Williams, “Nkrumahism as an ideological embodiment of leftist thought within the African
world”, Journal of Black Studies 15 (1), 1984, pp. 117-134; KD Agyeman, Ideological education
and nationalism in Ghana under Nkrumah and Busia (Accra: Ghana Universities Press, 1988);
CC Smith, “Nkrumahism as utopianism”, Utopian Studies 3, 1991, pp. 31-36; R Ofori, “e Man
Nkrumah”, West Africa 3 (834), 1991, pp. 254-257; Some reflections on Nkrumaism - although
hagiographic - can be found in K Krafona, e Pan-African movement: Ghana’s contribution
(London: Afroworld, 1986); KB Hadjor, Nkrumah and Ghana: e dilemma of post-colonial power
(London: Kegan Paul, 1988); JN Meyer, Dr. Nkrumah’s last dream: Continental government of
Africa; Osagyefo, dreamer, philosopher, freedom fighter, analyst, strategist, political architect,
hero of the wind of change (Accra: Advance Publishers, 1990).
86 Arhin (ed.), e life and work of Kwame Nkrumah.
44 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
just in front of the old parliament of Ghana. With this move, the Ghanaian
President J. J. Rawlings was transforming the most controversial figure of the
history of his country, into the father of the nation. Globally, the end of the Cold
War led also to a reconsideration of the past decades. e historical debate began
to be de-ideologised and this included also the one on Nkrumah’s ideas and
policies. us, from the early 1990s, both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians began to
look at the history of the Osagyefo with different perspectives.
e reconsideration of Nkrumah’s figure in a post-Cold War world did not
automatically mean his sanctification or glorification. Quite on the contrary, one
of the most important works of this period was a study which in some ways
contested Nkrumah’s myth. It was Jean Allman’s Quills of the porcupine (1993).87
is study dealt with Asante nationalism and particularly the development of the
National Liberation Movement (NLM) and its struggle against Nkrumah’s political
project.88 In particular, Allman contested Nkrumah’s narrative which saw him
as the only bearer of a modern nationalist project against a backward tribalism.
Instead, she described a case of a contesting nationalist project, a very successful
theme in the study of African history in recent years. Moreover, she offered a
different point of view on the relationship between traditional authorities and
politics in post-colonial Africa. In the wake of this study, Richard Rathbone
published Nkrumah and the chiefs (2000), which examined in details the policies
of the Osagyefo with regard to traditional authorities, further complicating the
narrative on the triumph of Nkrumaism over tribalism.89 Meanwhile, the heritage
and legacy of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana began to be discussed in the academia,
including considerations on the old wager with Houphouët-Boigny.90
87 JM Allman, e quills of the porcupine: Asante nationalism in an emergent Ghana (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1993).
88 Just few years before Joe Appiah one of Nkrumah’s main political adversaries had published his
memoires, providing new insight on the relationship between Nkrumah and the oppositions.
J Appiah, Joe Appiah: e autobiography of an African patriot (New York: Praeger, 1990).
89 R Rathbone, Nkrumah and the chiefs: e politics of chieftaincy in Ghana 1951-60 (Athens OH:
Ohio University Press, 2000).
90 Y Saaka, “Recurrent themes in Ghanaian politics: Kwame Nkrumah’s legacy”, Journal of Black
Studies 24 (3), 1994, pp. 263-280; AB Assensoh, African political leadership: Jomo Kenyatta,
Kwame Nkrumah, and Julius K. Nyerere (Malabar: Krieger Publ. Co., 1998); KO Boansi and RA
Denemark, “Notes towards the settling of an old wager: Lessons learned from Ghana and Côte
d’Ivoire”, Humboldt Journal of Social Relations 25 (2), 1999, pp. 1-41; O Agyeman, e failure
of grassroots Pan-Africanism: e case of the All-African Trade Union Federation (Lanham:
Lexington Books, 2003).
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 45
During the 1990s, new biographies were published. Particularly interesting
is Sherwood’s Kwame Nkrumah: e years abroad (1996).91 e book offered
fresh information about Nkrumah’s early political activities in the United States
and the United Kingdom, exploring the relationship between the future leader and
Pan-Africanists and radicals in America and Europe. Few years later, June Milne
published Kwame Nkrumah: A biography (1999), her own account on the life of
the late Ghanaian Pan-Africanist and their personal relationship.92 At the time,
the book had a particular value since it unveiled many details of the work behind
some of Nkrumah’s most important writings.
Meanwhile, other memories of retired diplomats added new fundamental
information to fully understand Ghana’s foreign policy under Nkrumah. Quarm’s
Diplomatic servant (1995) and Diplomatic offensive (1997) offered an insight
into the birth and development of the foreign service under Nkrumah as well as
the ways in which Ghana’s Pan-African foreign policy was put into practice.93
David Bosumtwi-Sam’s Landmarks of Dr Kwame Nkrumah (2001) also provided
interesting comments on Nkrumaism and its translation in the external projection
of the government of the Osagyefo.94 Kwesi Armah’s Peace without power
(2004) had, and still has a particular value in being, as Dei-Anang’s memories,
both an account of the author’s personal experience as a diplomat and a study
concerning Ghana’s foreign policy under Nkrumah.95
In December 1999, Nkrumah was voted by the African audience of BBC’s
Focus on Africa as “Africa’s Man of the Millennium” testifying his still strong
popularity in the continent.96 Just one year later, from the pages of Transition,
Russel Warren Howe wanted to describe Africa’s main independence leaders as
he knew them, looking for a figure which deserved the title as Africa’s “man of
the century”.97 Quite interestingly, the judgment on Nkrumah was still harsh,
discharging ideally the vote just expressed by the BBC listeners. Mazrui, the
other protagonist of the 1966-67 Transition debate, instead proved to be more
balanced confirming somehow that he “warmed up to Nkrumah over time”.98
Mazrui’s constant use of the concept of Africa’s “Triple Heritage” showed to what
91 Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah.
92 Milne, Kwame Nkrumah.
93 SE Quarm, Diplomatic servant: Reflections of a pioneer in Ghana’s diplomatic service (Accra:
Afram Publishers, 1995); SE Quarm, Diplomatic offensive: An overview of Ghana’s diplomacy
under Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (Accra: Afram Publishers, 1997).
94 D Bosumtwi-Sam, Landmarks of Dr Kwame Nkrumah (Accra: Ussh Graphic Designs, 2001).
95 K Armah, Peace without power, Ghana’s foreign policy 1957-1966 (Accra: Ghana University
Press, 2004).
96 Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame Nkrumah, p. 1. On the references to Nkrumah
at the Seventh Pan-African Congress in Uganda (1994) see, Biney, “e legacy of Kwame
Nkrumah”, p. 146.
97 WR Howe, “Men of the century”, Transition 86, 2000, pp. 36-50.
98 West, “Kwame Nkrumah and Ali Mazrui”, p. 123.
46 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
extent he found Nkrumah’s ideology and philosophy appropriate to describe
Africa’s past and future, despite its criticisms.99 In 2002, Mazrui gave a series of
lectures at the University of Ghana on Nkrumaism and its actual significance in
the post 9/11 world which were later published in Nkrumah’s legacy and Africa’s
triple heritage between globalisation and counter terrorism (2004).100 In the
lectures, he supported Nkrumah’s theory of the Triple Heritage but he also kept
distinguishing between “positive” Nkrumaism and “negative” Nkrumaism, in
an attempt to identify the mistakes made by the Osagyefo during his rule and
confront them.101 As stated clearly by the Ugandan historian, the simple fact he
could give these lectures in Ghana two decades after he had been prevented to
do so testified how the political climate had changed. He maintained, “Some of
the healing has taken place concerning Ghanaian responses to Kwame Nkrumah.
e name of Nkrumah still evokes emotions one way or the other, but at least we
are now able to come to terms with his significance for both Ghana and Africa”.102
An interesting debate on the actual importance of Nkrumah in the politics
of Africa and the black world globally took place in 1996 between two influential
personalities: Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) and Molefi Kete Asante.103
e two thinkers met at the University of Cincinnati in February 1996 as the
two main orators in a venue organised by the “United Afrikan Organisation”
to talk about Pan-Africanism and Afro-Centrism, their respective political
philosophies.104 Central in the dialogue was the figure of Kwame Nkrumah
whom both orators claimed as fundamental for their systems of thought. Molefi
Asante argued that Pan-Africanism could not actually exist without an Afro-
centrist philosophy and that indeed even “Nkrumah believed fundamentally in
an afro-centrist worldview” even if he did not state it clearly in Consciencism.105
Moreover, he discarded Ture’s call for a socialist united Africa on the ground that
socialism, as much as capitalism, are nothing but European concepts, alien to the
African tradition. Ture responded reaffirming the basic concepts of Nkrumah’s
Pan-Africanism. e latter, Ture maintained, was rooted in the Pan-Africanist
tradition, developed long before Afro-centrism and it is based on “revolutionary
organisation” aiming at the liberation and unification of the continent under
99 Mazrui, e Africans.
100 Mazrui, Nkrumah’s legacy.
101 Mazrui, Nkrumah’s legacy p. 22.
102 Mazrui, Nkrumah’s legacy, p. vii.
103 Stokely Carmichael, also known as Kwame Ture (1941-1998) was a Trinidadian-American civil
rights activist and Pan-Africanist. Molefi Kete Asante, born Arthur Lee Smith Jr. (1942) is a
prominent figure in the American academia and one of the main proponents of Afrocentrism.
104 “Africa & the Future” debate, recorded on 2 February 1996 at the University of Cincinnati. e recorded
video of the venue can be found here:,
accessed 27 June 2019.
105 Quoted from the debate.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 47
socialism. Echoing Nkrumah’s words, he explained, “there is no such thing
as African socialism, Chinese socialism, Russian socialism. ere is only one
socialism: scientific socialism […] socialism as capitalism are two economic
systems, they have absolutely nothing to do with Europe”.106 In 1997, Kwame Ture
maintained, “e All-African People’s Revolutionary Party knows that the correct
ideology for Africans [over] the world is Nkrumahism […] Dr. Nkrumah was one
of the first people to wake me up. It was he who began to wake up everyone”.107
Quite interestingly, in the 1996 debate with Molefi Asante, Ture included the
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a list of Pan-Africanist leaders he praised.108
In those same years, Gaddafi began publicly endorsing Nkrumah’s ideas as part
of a medium-long term strategy to relaunch Pan-Africanism in the form of a new
African Union.109 Mazrui recalled that period in his 2002 lectures in Ghana, “In the
new millennium, African leaders have started discussing once again concepts
like “continental union” and regional integration. In October 2000, I spent three
hours with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafy [sic] in his tent in Tripoli discussing
Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism. e ghost of Kwame Nkrumah was present in
that tent in Lybia”.110 e new African Union was created in 2002 in place of the
Organisation of African Unity, with the aim of enhancing the process of political
unification of the continent. In 2005, Gaddafi maintained, “Had we heeded
[Nkrumah’s] advice at that time, Africa would now be like the United States of
America or at least close to it. But we did not heed his advice, and even worse we
ridiculed those predictions”.111
Molefi Asante has written thought-provoking pages about Pan-Africanism
and the role played by Gaddafi and Nkrumah.112 Other Afrocentric scholars also
wrote important works on the Osagyefo and his role in the struggle for African
liberation and unity.113 Particularly stimulating are Poe, Botwe-Asamoah and
106 Quoted from the debate.
107 S Carmichael, “Pan-Africanism – Land and power”, e Black Scholar 27 (3-4), 1997, pp. 60 and 62
(it is partially a re-edition of the article published in e Black Scholar in 1969 under the same title).
108 e list included of course; Kwame Nkrumah, then Sekou Touré, Patrice Lumumba and Gamal
Abdel Nasser.
109 See Biney, “e legacy of Kwame Nkrumah”, pp. 147-148.
110 Mazrui, Nkrumah’s legacy, p. 11.
111 See, abridged version of Gaddafi’s address to the AU summit, July 4– 6, 2005, New African,
August/September 2005, quoted in Ama Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame
Nkrumah, p. 182.
112 See chapter seven (Kwame Nkrumah’s and Muammar Gaddafi’s Vision of Africa), in MK Asante,
Facing south to Africa: Toward an Afrocentric critical orientation (Lanham: Lexington Books,
2014), pp. 77-91; MK Asante, “e character of Kwame Nkrumah’s united Africa vision”,
e Journal of Pan African Studies 4 (10), 2012, pp. 12-25.
113 See for instance, K Nantambu, “Pan-Africanism versus Pan-African nationalism: An Afrocentric
analysis”, Journal of Black Studies 28 (5), 1998, pp. 561-574.
48 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
Rahman’s works.114 In the case of the first two authors, the Afrocentric approach
is evident even from the titles of the volumes. Both books are also edited by
Molefi Asante and are thus ascribable to his school of thought. e third volume
is probably the most innovative since it offers the examination of original
documents of the CIA which regard to the coup that overthrew Nkrumah.
e three book, however, as underlined by Biney, “tend to fall into an uncritical
Afrocentric examination of Nkrumah’s ideology within hagiographic tradition”.115
e new political climate favoured a more open debate and new primary
sources also allowed the exploration of new aspects on Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanist
and nationalist policies.116 Particularly interesting are contributions about the
relationship between Nkrumaism and religion117 and the symbolisms which
characterised Nkrumah’s nationalist project.118 One of the most remarkable
contribution of the last fifteen years is Ama Biney’s work. rough her writings,
Biney offered for the first time a comprehensive and detached analysis of
Nkrumah’s ideology as expressed in his books, pamphlets, articles and speeches.119
She herself stressed the need for this type of work, “In a post-Cold War world and
114 Z Poe, Kwame Nkrumah’s contribution to Pan-Africanism: An Afrocentric analysis (New York:
Routledge, 2003); K Botwe-Asamoah, Kwame Nkrumah’s politico-cultural thought and politics:
An African-centered paradigm for the second phase of the African revolution (New York:
Routledge, 2005); Rahman, e regime change.
115 Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame Nkrumah, p. 7.
116 See for instance; E White, “Kwame Nkrumah: Cold War modernity, Pan-African ideology and the
geopolitics of development”, Geopolitics 8 (2), 2003, pp. 99-124; G Serra, From scattered data
to ideological education: Economics, statistics and the state in Ghana, 1948-1966 (PhD, London
School of Economics, 2015).
117 See for instance, R Simms, ““I am a non-denominational Christian and a Marxist socialist”:
A Gramscian analysis of the Convention People’s Party and Kwame Nkrumah’s use of religion”,
Sociology of Religion 64 (4), 2003, pp. 463-477; R Simms, “Christianity is black with a capital
“B”: e religion and politics of Kwame Nkrumah”, e Western Journal of Black Studies 30 (2),
2006; RY Owusu, Kwame Nkrumah’s liberation thought: A paradigm for religious advocacy
(Trenton: Africa World, 2006).
118 See for instance, JB Hess, “Imagining architecture: e structure of nationalism in Accra, Ghana”,
Africa Today 47 (2), 2000, pp. 35-58; JB Hess, “Exhibiting Ghana: Display, documentary, and
‘National’ art in the Nkrumah era”, African Studies Review 44 (1), 2001, pp. 59-77; H Fuller,
“Civitatis Ghaniensis Conditor: Kwame Nkrumah, symbolic nationalism and the iconography of
Ghanaian money 1957 – the Golden Jubilee”, Nations and Nationalism 14 (3), 2008, pp. 520–541;
H Fuller, Building the Ghanaian nation-state: Kwame Nkrumah’s symbolic nationalism (New
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
119 Biney, “e Legacy of Kwame Nkrumah”; A Biney, “e development of Kwame Nkrumah’s
political thought in exile, 1966-1972”, e Journal of African History 50 (1), 2009, pp. 81-100;
Biney, e Political and Social ought of Kwame Nkrumah; A Biney, “e intellectual and
political legacies of Kwame Nkrumah”, e Journal of Pan African Studies 4 (10), 2012; A Biney,
“Ghana’s contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle: 1958-1994”. In: South African Democracy
Education Trust (SADET), e Road to Democracy in South Africa, Volume 5, African Solidarity,
Part 1 (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2013), pp. 79-120.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 49
with historical events placed firmly in the past, a greater sense of perspective
becomes possible in soberly reassessing Nkrumah’s role and contribution”.120
In 2007, an important event contributed to further increase the interest
in Kwame Nkrumah both inside and outside the Academia: the 50th Anniversary
of the Independence of Ghana.121 e Golden Jubilee was not only an occasion to
affirm Ghanaian nationalist pride. It instead involved also the African Diaspora,
closely connected with Ghana because of the ancient and painful memories
of the slave trade but also because of the Pan-Africanist connections which
Nkrumah fortified in the 1950s and 1960s.122 Both these elements also re-evoked
in the contemporary celebration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the
slave trade in the British Empire, became the basis for the launch of the “Joseph
Project”, whose goals were, “to celebrate African excellence and to welcome the
Diaspora back home – to Ghana”.123
In the last twenty years, the Academic world examined with growing
interest the history of trans-continental and trans-national movements of ideas
and people in and outside Africa.124 With regard to Nkrumah’s Ghana, the work
of Adi and Sherwood offered interesting insights into the relationship between
Nkrumah and several Pan-Africanist figures in America, Russia and Europe.125
Adi and Sherwood’s production is also part of a wider literature that looks at
questions like the struggle for human rights, the fight against racism, anti-
colonial and radical activism at a transnational level.126 Within this vast literature,
120 Biney, e political and social thought of Kwame Nkrumah, p.1.
121 June Milne reflected on Nkrumah’s legacy in the African continent in J Milne, “e coup that
disrupted Africa’s forward march”, New African 448, 2006, pp. 14-17. In the occasion of the
50th anniversary and in view of the renewed interest for Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Rooney’s
Kwame Nkrumah was reprinted, as Sawyer wrote, “against [a] background of oversimplification,
tending towards both deification and demonisation”, Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 13. On the
anniversary see also, DE Apter, “Ghana’s independence: Triumph and paradox”, Transition 98,
2008, pp. 6-22; E Akyeampong and A De-Graft Aikins, “Reflections on independence and after”,
Transition 98, 2008, pp. 24-34.
122 MD Commander, “Ghana at fifty: Moving toward Kwame Nkrumah’s Pan-African dream”,
American Quarterly 59 (2), 2007, pp. 421-441.
123 Commander, “Ghana at fifty”, p. 430.
124 On the role of Ghana as a transnational hub during Nkrumah’s rule see, K Walraven, e yearning
for relief: A history of the Sawaba movement in Niger (Leiden: Brill, 2013); M Terretta, Nation of
outlaws, state of violence: Nationalism, grassfields tradition, and state building in Cameroon
(Athens OH: Ohio University Press, 2014).
125 H Adi, West Africans in Britain 1900-1960: Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and communism
(London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1998); H Adi, “Pan-Africanism and West African nationalism
in Britain”, African Studies Review 43 (1), 2000, pp. 69-82; Adi and Sherwood (ed.), e 1945
Manchester Pan-African Congress; Sherwood, Kwame Nkrumah; M Sherwood, “Pan-African
conferences, 1900-1953: What did “Pan-Africanism” mean?”, e Journal of Pan African Studies
4 (10), 2012; M Sherwood, “George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah: a tentative outline of their
relationship”. In: F Baptiste and R Lewis (ed.), George Padmore: Pan-African revolutionary
(Miami: Ian Randle Publications, 2009).
126 See for instance, MP Guterl, “Comment: e futures of transnational history”, e American
Historical Review 118 (1), 2013, p. 131; JS Allman, “Nuclear imperialism and the Pan-African
50 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
the figure of George Padmore has recently attracted a particular interest among
historians, for the Trinidadian Pan-Africanist, as brilliantly underlined by Leslie
James in her George Padmore (2014), was a “truly transnational figure”.127
Gaines’s American Africans in Ghana (2006) explored the whole experience of
Afro-American expatriates in the Ghana of Nkrumah, who included the famous Pan-
Africanist W. E. B. Du Bois. e book offered important new elements for a reflection
on the Pan-Africanist ideology of the Osagyefo, the connections he entertained
with different worlds and the relationship between Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians
in Nkrumaist Ghana. Jean Allman contributed to the debate on these transnational
connections in her ground-breaking article Nuclear imperialism and the Pan-African
struggle for peace and freedom (2008).128 In this article, Allman ideally invited
scholars to interrogate the history of Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism without judging
the facts ex post facto but rather understanding their development in their historical
context. As Jean Allman has rightly pointed out, for too long,
many scholars of African nation and nationalism have been immobilised
by what has been widely deemed the failure of the nationalist and Pan-
Africanist project in Africa. […] Yet these are stories we need to remember
[…] ‘nation-time’, liberation times, times when Pan-Africanism
recognised no boundaries and a United States of Africa was considered
not a pipe dream, but a plan just shy of a blueprint.129
Jeffrey Ahlman is probably one of the scholar who has provided the most
interesting new contributions on the study of Nkrumah’s times in the last years.
anks to new primary sources, he has explored the impact of Nkrumaism in the
daily life of Ghana as well as Nkrumah’s attempts to transform the latter into a
“Pan-African nation”.130 With regard to Nkrumah’s foreign policy, Ahlman has
published two articles which have opened promising perspectives: e Algerian
question in Nkrumah’s Ghana (2010) and Road to Ghana (2011).131 In the first
struggle for peace and freedom: Ghana, 1959–1962”, Souls 10 (2), 2008, p. 85.
127 See for instance, L James, George Padmore and decolonisation from below: Pan-Africanism, the
Cold War, and the end of empire (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), p. 1; C Polsgrove, Ending
British rule in Africa: writers in a common cause (Manchester: Manchester University Press,
2009); H Adi, Pan-Africanism and communism. e communist international, Africa and the
diaspora, 1919-1939 (Trenton NJ: Africa World Press, 2013); H Weiss, Framing a radical African
Atlantic: African American agency, West African intellectuals and the International Trade Union
Committee of Negro Workers (Leiden: Brill, 2013).
128 Allman, “Nuclear imperialism”, pp. 83-102.
129 Allman, “Nuclear imperialism”, p. 85.
130 JS Ahlman, “Managing the Pan-African workplace: Discipline, ideology, and the cultural politics
of the Ghanaian Bureau of African Affairs”, Ghana Studies 15, 2012, pp. 337–371; JS Ahlman,
“A new type of citizen: Youth, gender, and generation in the Ghanaian Builders Brigade”, Journal
of African History 53 (1), 2012, pp. 87–105.
131 JS Ahlman, “e Algerian question in Nkrumah’s Ghana, 1958–1960: Debating “violence” and
“non-violence” in African decolonisation”, Africa Today 57 (2), 2010, pp. 67–84; JS Ahlman, “Road
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 51
seminal article, Ahlman described the debate on violence and non-violence
among African freedom fighters in the late 1950s and early 1950s. In particular,
the author analysed how Nkrumah’s nonviolent “Positive Action” was challenged
by Fanon’s call to arms at the All-African People’s Conference (1958) and the way
in which the contemporary events in other parts of the continent especially in
Algeria, made Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians to reconsider their faith in absolute
non-violent methods of struggle.132 e second article is also important as it
discusses at the same time the impact of Nkrumaism in Southern Africa and, on
the contrary, the impact of Southern African struggles on Ghana’s foreign policy.
In the perspective offered by these two writings, Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism has
to be studied in the context of a trans-national net of connections and exchanges
which shaped the late colonial and early independent Africa. In 2017, Ahlman
published a book which is destined to become one of the reference works on
Nkrumah and Nkrumaism: Living with Nkrumahism.133 e author shows how
Nkrumah’s ideology was conceived by the Ghanaian leader and his entourage
and how it was “lived” by common Ghanaians and how they negotiated and
reinterpreted it.
In recent years, in the wake of Ahlman’s work, other scholars have begun
examining new and unexplored aspects of Nkrumah’s foreign policy, making
ample use of the important new materials which have become available in the last
two decades. Frank Gerits’ work explores the crucial role played by Nkrumah’s
Ghana in the Cold War, more specifically in the “Ideological Scramble for
Africa”.134 In his ground-breaking PhD research, Gerits describes the international
competition between US, France, Ghana and the UK to conquer the “minds” of
African peoples. Nkrumah, according to Gerits, projected his Pan-African ideology
as an alternative to Cold War ideologies. Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanism, according to
an article also authored by Gerits, can be seen as an “interventionalist ideology in
the Global Cold War”.135 Other authors like Nwaubani, Iandolo and Landricina have
to Ghana: Nkrumah, Southern Africa and the eclipse of a decolonising Africa”, Kronos 37 (1), 2011,
pp. 23–40.
132 See also, B Sutherland and M Meyer, Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African insights on
nonviolence, armed struggle and liberation in Africa (Asmara: Africa World Press, 2000);
M Grilli “Nkrumah’s Ghana and the armed struggle in Southern Africa (1961-1966)”, South African
Historical Journal 70 (1), 2018, pp. 56-81.
133 J S Ahlman, Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana (Athens: Ohio
University Press, 2017).
134 F Gerits, e ideological scramble for Africa: e US, Ghanaian, French and British competition for
Africa’s future, 1953–1963 (PhD, European University Institute, 2014).
135 F Gerits, “When the bull elephants fight”’; See also, F Gerits, “Bandung as the call for a better
development project: US, British, French and Gold Coast perceptions of the Afro-Asian
Conference (1955)”, Cold War History 16 (3), 2016, pp. 255-272.
52 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
worked on the relationship between Nkrumah’s Ghana and the two sides of the
Cold War.136
Matteo Grilli, who is the author of this article, has dealt with the spreading
of Nkrumaism in Africa. Nkrumaism and African nationalism (2018), examines
Ghana’s Pan-African foreign policy during Nkrumah’s rule, investigating how
Ghanaians sought to influence the ideologies of African liberation movements.
Grilli writes, “in a world of competing ideologies, when African nationalism was
taking shape through trial and error, Nkrumah offered Nkrumaism as a truly
African answer to colonialism, neo-colonialism and the rapacity of the Cold War
powers”. In his book, Grilli sets out to demonstrate how Ghanaians used three
institutions, the Bureau of African Affairs, the African Affairs Centre and the
Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, to spread Nkrumaism within the ranks of
African nationalist parties and movements. As Grilli underlines, “although virtually
no liberation movement followed the precepts of Nkrumaism to the letter, many
adapted the principles and organisational methods learnt in Ghana to their own
struggles”. 137 is book, for the first time, details the life of African freedom
fighters in Ghana and the ways in which they became influenced by Nkrumah’s
ideology.138 us, Nkrumaism and African Nationalism is at the same time a study
on Ghana’s foreign policy and one on Pan-Africanism and African nationalism at
a continental level. In a recent article, Grilli also discusses the role of Nkrumah’s
Ghana in the armed struggle in Southern Africa, offering new information on the
training camps and Ghanaian policies relating to the use of guerrilla warfare in
African liberation struggles.139
A common trait of all these recent studies on Nkrumah’s foreign policy is the
use of a wide variety of primary sources, retrieved in different parts of the world,
thus highlighting the international and transnational dimension of this history.140
Some of these sources had never been used before. In particular, Ahlman, Grilli
136 See for instance, E Nwaubani, e United States and decolonisation in West Africa, 1950-1960
(Rochester: Rochester University Press, 2001); Z Levey, “e rise and decline of a special
relationship: Israel and Ghana, 1957-1966”, African Studies Review 46 (1), 2003, pp. 155-177;
D Laumann, “Che Guevara’s visit to Ghana”, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana
9, 2005, pp. 61-74; S Mazov, A distant front in the Cold War: e USSR in West Africa and the
Congo, 1956-1964 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010); A Iandolo, Soviet policy in West
Africa, 1957-64 (PhD, University of Oxford, 2011); A Iandolo, “e rise and fall of the “Soviet
model of development” in West Africa, 1957–64”, Cold War History 12 (4), 2012, pp. 683-704;
M Landricina, Nkrumah and the West: e Ghana experiment in the British, American and
German archives (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2018).
137 Grilli, Nkrumaism, p. 4.
138 On the life of freedom fighters in Ghana see also, M Grilli, “Southern African liberation movements
in Nkrumah’s Ghana”, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, forthcoming.
139 Grilli, “Nkrumah’s Ghana and the armed struggle”.
140 For example, for his Nkrumaism and African Nationalism, Grilli used archival sources from
Ghana, UK, Zambia, South Africa, USA and Portugal. He also collected oral interviews in Ghana,
South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia and eSwatini.
Grilli / A Historiographical Overview of Nkrumah’s Ideology and Foreign Policy 53
and Gerits have extensively used the important papers of the Bureau of African
Affairs Collection held at the George Padmore Research Library on African Affairs
in Accra, Ghana. ese documents, deemed lost for decades, have become
available to scholars since the late 1980s but only recently they have been used
extensively for research purposes. ese materials are extremely important for
both the history of Ghana and that of liberation movements hosted in the country
during Nkrumah’s times. Grilli has recently published an archival report on this
collection, where information is also provided on documents pertaining Ghana’s
“Pan-African institutions” in other Ghanaian archives.141 e most important
documents on Nkrumah’s ideology and foreign policy, other than those of the
Bureau of African Affairs Collection, are undoubtedly those of the Public Records
and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) in Accra, Ghana.
e academic and non-academic debate on Nkrumah is still vibrant.
e 100th anniversary of the Osagyefo’s birth (2009), for instance, was the
chance for the AARP to celebrate his enduring legacy.142 e year after, the first
inaugural Kwame Nkrumah International Conference (KNIC) was held at Kwantlen
Polytechnic University (Ghana). is, as well as the following three bi-annual
KNIC conferences sought to “enhance Pan-African agency through cutting edge
research and innovative ideas on Pan-African development within context of
21st century global trends”.143 Many authors, including Poe and Molefi-Asante
has participated in the works of the KNIC.144 In 2013, the 50th anniversary of the
Institute of African Studies of the University of Ghana (Legon) was celebrated with
an international conference.145 Finally, the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of
Ghana’s independence in 2017 were once more an occasion to discuss the legacy
of Nkrumah in Ghana and in Africa.
For decades, a vast debate has developed in Africa as well as outside Africa
on Nkrumah and his heritage. Several scholars, intellectuals and politicians
labelled the Ghanaian leader as one of the biggest failure of the post-colonial
African leadership. Others fed his myth to the point of glorifying his martyrdom
141 Grilli, “Nkrumah, nationalism, and Pan-Africanism”.
142 See AARP, Press Release for “Nkrumah@100 Commemorations”, 21 September 2009; https://,
accessed 30 June 2019.
nkrumah-international-conference, accessed on 30 June 2019.
144 See for instance, the special issue of e Journal of Pan African Studies 4 (10), 2012 dedicated to
the 2010 KNIC.
145 See, J Allman, “Kwame Nkrumah, African studies, and the politics of knowledge production in the
black star of Africa”, International Journal of African Historical Studies 46 (2), 2013, pp. 181-203.
54 SJCH 44(2) | December | 2019
by the hands of neo-colonialists. Others, like Ali Mazrui, discussed “positive”
and “negative” Nkrumaism with the hope of promoting a new synthesis of
Nkrumah’s ideas and policies, amended from their most controversial aspects.
e aim of this article was to rationalise and categorise the huge production on
Nkrumah. After examining Nkrumah’s own works as well as Nkrumaist literature,
the article had described the evolution of the debate on this crucial figure of
African history. Following a period of highly ideologised portraits of Nkrumah, the
last three decades have seen the emergence of new approaches, finally detached
by partisan positions. Primary sources have become more available to scholars,
allowing for a deeper understanding of the man and his policies. Also, and this is
probably the most important contribution of the recent literature, the importance
of Nkrumah has been highlighted at a continental level. Studying Nkrumah’s
ideology and foreign policy is not only important for the history of Ghana but for
the whole continent.
Undoubtedly, the interest surrounding Nkrumah is not only due to a mere
intellectual curiosity. A crucial aspect which informs the debate is the fact that to
this day his Pan-Africanist proposals attracts followers all over Africa and even
in the Diaspora. ese followers are attracted by an ideology which is African in
form and contents and which claims to be, as a consequence, independent from
foreign ideologies and interests. e name of Nkrumah is still widely evoked by
protest movements, political parties and politicians, either as just an abstract
symbol of freedom and Pan-Africanism or as the bearer of a concrete proposal
for a radical change in African politics. e words of Rooney, written in 1988, still
capture the power of Nkrumah’s thought and their potential impact on African
politics, “Learning from his mistakes could still save Africa’s leaders from future
blunders, while the inspiration of his idealism still impels them towards the
elusive goal of a prosperous and united Africa”.146 What appears clear to the
author of this article is that the debate on Nkrumah and his Pan-African ideology
is far from being exhausted both in the academia and outside it. Many more
pages wait to be written on this key figure of Modern African history. e hope
of the author of this article is that these pages would be helpful to new scholars
interested in approaching the study on Nkrumah and Nkrumaism.
146 Rooney, Kwame Nkrumah, p. 11.
... Thiong'o to literature, and Grilli (2019) who studied the contribution of Kwame Nkrumah to philosophy. These studies relied on secondary sources such as texts written by these scholars and by those who were familiar with their works. ...
African philosophers such as Olusegun Oladipo, Lansana Kieta, Kwama Nkrumah and Kanu Ikechukwu proposed to revisit the semantic of the word “development”. From their viewpoint, instead of seeing economic growth as the DNA of development, we should actualize the notion as rather aiming at the universalities of cultures, which could ensure progress and development. Further aspects such as a) the worldview of the Bantu, b) the distribution of resources in large national giant nations as Nigeria, and c) faith-based organization and development with Obiora Ike, justify a closer reading of the concept. It shows that people-oriented development is better adapted to Africa than abstract concepts, which may not include strong reference to the African traditions and belief systems. Sustainable and integrative development should include all major faith groups, which are all part of development, understood as a social and economic investment with social responsibility and faith.
This paper probes the foreign policy objectives of military regimes in Ghana from 1966 to 1993. The mid-sixties and early-nineties saw Africa and Latin America challenging each other for an accolade of notoriety as the continent with the most military coup d'états. Though most of the military disturbances in Francophone Africa could barely provoke any serious expert analysis, the revolts in Ghana and Nigeria had given many military pundits a different dimension of the militarization of African politics. As a 65-year-old sovereign state, Ghana has witnessed four military regimes: 1966–1969, 1972–1979, 1979, and 1981–1993. These politics of military takeovers were always blamed on economic mismanagement and administrative abuse of power. Indeed, Ghana’s economy since independence in 1957 has suffered several setbacks as far as steady economic growth is concerned. As the country celebrated its 65th independence day on 6 March 2022, amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic, this study seeks to retrace the political steps of the country since independence; focusing on the foreign policy of the military regimes within the last six decades. The paper intends to prove that just as military officers lack political legitimacy to govern, they are hardly the right actors to make successful foreign policy decisions.
Full-text available
This thesis analyses the contribution of economics and statistics in the transformation of Ghana from colonial dependency to socialist one-party state. The narrative begins in 1948, extending through the years of decolonization, and ends in 1966, when the first postcolonial government led by Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown by a military coup d’état. Drawing on insights from political economy, the history of economics and the sociology of science, the study is constructed as a series of microhistories of public institutions, social scientists, statistical enquiries and development plans. In the period under consideration economics and statistics underwent a radical transformation in their political use. This transformation is epitomised by the two extremes mentioned in the title: the ‘scattered data’ of 1950s household budget surveys were expression of the limited will and capacity of the colonial state to exercise control over different areas of the country. In contrast, the 1960s dream of a monolithic one-party state led the political rulers to use Marxist-Leninist political economy as a cornerstone of the ideological education aiming at creating the ideal citizen of the socialist regime. Based on research in British and Ghanaian archives, the study claims that economists and statisticians provided important cognitive tools to imagine competing alternatives to the postcolonial nation state, finding its most extreme version in the attempt to fashion a new type of economics supporting Nkrumah’s dream of a Pan-African political and economic union. At a more general level, the thesis provides a step towards a deeper incorporation of Sub-Saharan Africa in the history of economics and statistics, by depicting it not simply as an importer of ideas and scientific practices, but as a site in which the interaction of local and foreign political and scientific visions turned economics and statistics into powerful tools of social engineering. These tools created new spaces for political support and dissent, and shifted the boundaries between the possible and the utopian.
Building on newly available primary sources, this article describes Nkrumah’s role in the armed struggle in Southern Africa, including information about the establishment and running of military training camps in Ghana. Moreover, the article examines why Nkrumah’s influence over the liberation movements engaged in armed resistance diminished after 1963. This was the outcome of several factors operating concurrently. With the intensification of the armed struggle, Ghana’s geographical disadvantage and logistical difficulties in providing weapons to the frontline became evident, especially when compared to Tanzania. However, as the article argues, the crucial reason for its loss of influence in the region was political. Indeed, after 1963 it became increasingly clear that the priorities and strategies of Nkrumah’s Pan-African and liberation policies were not fully endorsed by the key protagonists of the armed struggle, and this ultimately affected their relationship with Ghana. As a result, the country that had led the liberation struggle on the continent between 1957 and 1963, ultimately lost its competition with other African and non-African actors in the region. Still, Nkrumah had an outstanding following among Southern African freedom fighters prior to the coup of February 1966, rooted in the ongoing support for the armed struggle by the Ghanaian government.
The article describes the Bureau of African Affairs Collection. First it introduces the history of the archive by examining the crucial events that influenced its state and accessibility. Then, it describes the contents of the collection, underlying its importance for the study of Kwame Nkrumah’s domestic and foreign policies and African nationalism at a continental level. The documents included in the Bureau of African Affairs Collection provide unique insights into both Nkrumah’s foreign and domestic policies. In particular, they include invaluable information on his Pan-African policy. Moreover, the documents shed new light on the presence of African liberation movements in Ghana in the period 1957 to 1966. Thus, this Collection can attract scholars interested in both Ghanaian history as well as the history of Pan-Africanism and African nationalism at a continental level.
Inspired by Gandhi's non-violent campaign of civil disobedience to achieve political ends, Kwame Nkrumah led present-day Ghana to independence. This analysis of his political, social and economic thought centres on his own writings, and re-examines his life and thought by focusing on the political discourse and controversies surrounding him.
How important international actors such as France, Britain and the United States, viewed the Bandung Conference of 1955 is heavily debated. Furthermore, it remains unclear how the Gold Coast, an emerging power in Africa, perceived the Afro-Asian meeting. This article seeks to illuminate those positions on Bandung through a multi-centric analysis and by reflecting on the importance of Africa for the Afro-Asian agenda. It is argued that, rather than the Cold War, racial solidarity or anti-colonialism, it was development and modernisation that shaped the response of conference observers.
This study critically synthesizes and analyses the relationship between Kwame Nkrumah's politico-cultural philosophy and policies as an African-centered paradigm for the post-independence African revolution. It also argues for the relevance of his theories and politics in today's Africa.
This study analyzes contributions made by Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) to the development of Pan-African agency from the 1945 Pan-African Congress in Manchester to the military coup d'etat of Nkrumah's government in February 1966.