Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park must be more than a tourist attraction (Part II)

Mandatory vaccine and its effect on international tourism ( Part II)
  •  adding a learning centre may not be a bad idea

In October 1935, the young Nkrumah traveled first to Britain in order to obtain an American visa. While in London he heard the news of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. He maintained: “My nationalism surged to the fore.” For many Africans and people of African descent, Ethiopia remained a point of pride and nationalistic sentiment, for along with Liberia it had been able to escape colonial rule.

The Italian invasion spelt the end of this independence and anger was felt by Africans and people of African descent around the world. It is unknown whether Nkrumah attended any political meetings in London concerning the invasion of Ethiopia. Nevertheless, at this important juncture of his life he already possessed nationalist sentiments; he believed in freedom of African people. The fiery language and radical outlook of Zik’s newspaper and Wood impacted deeply on him.

His sojourn in the United States, which was to last for ten years, was to deepen his intellectual growth. Student in America, 1935-1945 Sherwood’s study of Nkrumah’s student years in America is an important work shedding light on a formative period of his life. Careful research in Lincoln’s files, correspondence and interviews with individuals who taught Nkrumah or were his contemporaries offer rare glimpses into the world in which Nkrumah moved and was shaped by.

Of his undergraduate years from 1935 to 1939, Sherwood writes “Nkrumah was a good student.” At the age of 26, Nkrumah arrived at Lincoln University with “the equivalent of forty pounds in my pocket, a second-class teacher’s certificate and a letter of introduction from Mr. S. R. Wood.”In 1936 he had won second place in the Kappa Alpha Psi oratorical contest, speaking on ‘Africa, the burden of the Negro.’ Two years later he won the Robert Fleming Labaree Memorial Prize in Social Science in which he submitted an essay entitled ‘Imperialism: Its Politics, Social and Economic Aspects.’ He graduated in 1939 with a BA in economics and sociology.

According to Sherwood, interactions between Africans and African Americans on the Lincoln campus were strained on account of cultural differences. Outside of classes there was little interaction between the few Africans and the African American students. The cultural differences were manifested in the studiousness of the African students, which The Lincoln University Bulletin of Feb 1939 considered a “large contingent” in the Freshman class. These Africans planned “to pursue professional or graduate studies … some [in] education, students and their determination to succeed was often perceived as an air of superiority by African-American students.

At the beginning of 1939 Nkrumah was joined by fellow countrymen, Ako Adjei and K. A. B. Jones Quartey, along with other Africans including, Asuogo Udo Idiong and Abdul Karim Disn. Academic staff who taught Nkrumah observed his personal conduct and intellectual abilities. Dean Grim, Nkrumah’s lecturer in general biology, recollected the young Francis as: “Gentlemanly; of above average intelligence, quick to defend what he felt was right. Quiet and courteous. Strongly individualist.” Dr Kuehner, registrar at Lincoln University remarked: “Good student with limitations in ability at points in higher level college work. Loved controversy. Quiet. Usually withheld his opinions except in debates (on the team). An eager questioner in class. Critical of any criticism of Great Britain, especially by a non-subject. Held strong views. (His concept of primitive man for example).”

As Nkrumah’s nationalist ideas were evolving during his early days at Lincoln, it is peculiar that he was “critical of any criticism of Great Britain.” No further explanation by Kuehner is posited. It is possible to surmise that Nkrumah was simultaneously anti­colonial as well protective of the British motherland, particularly from students he felt had little understanding of British colonial rule. Had British colonial education inculcated a sense of loyalty in Africans – and even in Nkrumah? Whatever the explanation, if onesome journalism, some law, and some medicine,” see NAG:SC21/122/2. According to the Lincoln University Bulletin of 1939, “All together, … at least 65 students from Africa have registered in the college and seminary of Lincoln University over a period of 66 years”. accepts the truth of Dr. Kuehner’s observation, it reveals some of the contradictions and complexities inherent in Nkrumah’s thinking at an early stage. One contemporary, an African American by the name of Beverley Carter, described him as: thoughtful, reflective and considerate. He was the most liked of the foreign students on campus. He mixed well in contrast to a number of others from Africa… He seemed to take a personal pleasure from reading the great philosophers… Nkrumah was talking about Pan-Africanism throughout his later years at Lincoln. He talked about the independence of the then African colonies in way, which made many think of him as a dreamer.

Nkrumah’s studiousness earned him the post of philosophy assistant to Dr. Foster in the autumn of 1939. During his vacation, he stayed in Harlem with fellow student Thomas Dosumu-Johnson and frequently visited the Harlem National Memorial Bookstore where he was allowed to read in the back room, as he could not afford to purchase the books. He also visited the Schomburg Collection in Harlem. Earlier, in 1937, the Dean of Lincoln, Frank W. Wilson, wrote a letter of introduction to the Council on African Affairs (CAA) on Nkrumah’s behalf. Wilson refers to Nkrumah as “a person greatly concerned about the entire African situation.” Nkrumah met the

Secretary of the organization, Max Yergan. A great amount of Nkrumah’s time as a student was spent reading on philosophy, political science and history. His voracious reading included the work of Kant, Hegel, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Freud. Beverley Carter remarked that: “He was always well prepared but did not make fetish of studying. He seemed to take great

personal pleasure from reading of the great philosophers and this was in many ways a form of relaxation for him.” Two undated essays reveal Nkrumah’s intellectual interest in philosophy. One is entitled ‘Is Man Naturally Moral?’  and the other is entitled ‘The Philosophy of Property.’ The former is a two-page examination of this question from the perspectives of Aristotle, Kant, Rousseau, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Christian, anarchist and totalitarian perspectives. Nkrumah concluded by stating: “I subscribe to the theory that man is naturally amoral. That he is non-moral by birth, incapable of being good or bad, but his capability of moral or immoral action is determined as he grows in reason and intelligence amidst the mores and customs of his society.”

‘The Philosophy of Property’ examines the evolution of the concept of property from Hebrew, Hindu, Greek, Roman, and medieval perspectives. The Church and modern views, including those of Adam Smith and Locke, and the Marxist interpretation are also outlined. It is interesting that in regards to the view of property as advanced by the French socialist, Proudhon, Nkrumah shows he is in disagreement with the Marxist conception of ownership. He wrote, “I wholly believe in individual rights and Nkrumah, Autobiography, p. 26. Nkrumah was also a member of the Philosophy Club at Lincoln University.

Earlier in the same piece he wrote of “the idealism and impracticability of communistic theories”. Moreover, he argued “communism seems to be unsuccessful in societies where it has been tried, because its principles are at variance with human nature, and even with the original nature of property itself.” Nkrumah did not define what he considered to constitute “human nature” nor “the original nature of property itself.” Apart from the question of the distribution of property in society, Nkrumah was also preoccupied with the state of the African continent, A contemporary of Nkrumah at Lincoln was Robert T. Freeman Jr, who stated that Nkrumah was committed to a United States of Africa. Another classmate, Dr. J. Jeffrey Higgs characterized Nkrumah as a “quiet, introspective, serious student, not particularly interested in socializing or engaging in local politics; (he had no) particular interest in African American problems.” The extent of Lincoln’s influence on Nkrumah is very difficult to determine.

One of his tutors, Dr. J. Newton-Hill, maintains: Nkrumah did not always make it clear how the institution was affecting him. I think in many areas he seemed to be somewhat affable among his fellow students and among certain members of the faculty. But Nkrumah had his mind pretty well made up when he entered Lincoln University and 1 don’t think he changed his general point of view very much while he was there. So I would say the effect of the institution on him was somewhat minimal except for the educational aspect of the work. Another incident narrated by Newton-Hill involved the performance of a play at Lincoln, in which Nkrumah played the “reluctant part of a Nubian slave.” Furthermore, Newton-Hill claims: “I handed him the copy of the script and told him to read certain passages which I had previously selected. He read them with a complete lack of interest with a marked distaste, for in all those passages the Nubian slave was a rather despicable individual as presented in that play.”

Yet, Nkrumah was not aware that his tutor was testing him. He was told to read the entire play and return to rehearsals the following day. Nkrumah was to learn that the Nubian slave led a mutiny on board a ship and freed all the slaves aboard. He then accepted the part. This incident appears to demonstrate Nkrumah’s profound sense of racial dignity and desire for leadership. Aside from his academic work, which extensively absorbed his intellectual energies, Nkrumah had relationships with a few women and involved himself in political activities.

During his period at Lincoln, the majority of students were male. However, the scarcity of friends is also attributable to Nkrumah’s single-minded political focus. He made the important comment – albeit retrospectively – that he considered, women, religion and money as forms of entrapment. He wrote: Unfortunately, the fact that I enjoy women’s company has led to a great deal of misunderstanding from those who look at my life from outside. I have never wanted to become too entangled with a woman because I know that I would never be able to devote enough attention to her, that sooner or later whether she was married to me or not, she would begin to wander away from me. I was afraid too, that if I allowed a woman to play too important a part in my life I would gradually lose sight of my goal.

Few people have been able to understand this attitude of mine. Beverley Carter, however, claims that “On the personal side, he was attractive to the opposite sex.” Nkrumah himself reveals in his Autobiography that whilst preaching in a Baptist Church in Philadelphia he was introduced to two sisters by the names of Portia and Romana. This revealed history of Kwame Nkrumah shows the essence of having a centre of learning at the Memorial Park. We shall unveil more next week.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer/Trainer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations



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