Rekindling Kwame Nkrumah's Pan-Africanism

By Nkrumah, Jamal | The New Crisis, September/October 1998 | Go to article overview

Rekindling Kwame Nkrumah's Pan-Africanism


Nkrumah, Jamal, The New Crisis


While attending the NAACP 89th Annual Convention, I realized the need for rekindling the radical Pan-Africanism that was embodied in the 1960s by my father, Kwame Nkrumah, and one of the NAACP's fathers, W. E. B. Du Bois.

As I mingled with the convention delegates, I was very conscious of the proud legacy of Nkrumah and Du Bois. Soon after Ghana's independence from British rule in 1957, Nkrumah, in an unprecedented and highly symbolic move, invited W.E.B. Du Bois to live in Ghana in the sunset of the celebrated African-American scholar's long and eventful life. Du Bois passed away at the ripe old age of 95 and is buried on Ghanaian soil.

I am acutely aware of the heritage Nkrumah bequeathed me. When I visit the United States I feel I am on a special mission to bring Africa and Africans closer to African Americans. My first visit to the U.S. was in the fall of 1986. A day after my arrival, I spoke to a large gathering of students and scholars at Howard University, Washington, D.C. I received a tumultuous standing ovation and my first encounter with African Americans left a lasting impression of me. African Americans received me with much warmth precisely because they deeply appreciated the pioneering work my father did to extend and cement ties between continental Africans and African Americans. My father's papers are deposited at the MoorlandSpingarn Research Center, Howard University.

At this year's NAACP convention it was clear that we shared a common destiny. First, I was reminded of our need to unite, both in Africa and in America. Our communities are fragmented: intellectuals espouse competing ideologies; communities divide into competing camps-leftists versus cultural nationalists, men versus women, Christians versus Muslims, young versus old. I believe Nkrumah's and Du Bois's PanAfricanism can stop this fragmentation.

Second, we must reach out to this hip-hop generation, many of whom have never heard of Nkrumah. Older African Americans, especially those in the Civil Rights Movement and cultural nationalists, remember him, but teenagers have difficulty pronouncing his name, let alone remembering what he did to foster ties between Africans and African Americans. Even though these teenagers might not have encountered segregation, systematic racism in education, health and other sectors is rife, and examples of blatant racial discrimination can still be found. …

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