March 6th, 1957, the Gold Coast gained it's independence from Great
Independence Square celebrations - Accra, Ghana
Ghana - Political History
Ghana lies at the heart of a region which has been leading sub-Saharan
African culture since the first millennium BC in metal-working, mining,
sculpture and agriculture.
Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana, some 800 km.
(500 miles) to the north of present day Accra, which flourished up to the
eleventh century AD. One of the great sudanic states which dominate African
history, the kingdom of Ghana controlled the gold trade between the mining
areas to the south and the Saharan trade routes to the north. Ancient Ghana
was also the focus for the export trade in Saharan copper and salt.
The coming of Europeans altered the trading patterns, and the focus of
economic power shifted to the West African coastline. The Portuguese came
first, seeking the source of the African gold. It lay too far inland for
them to reach; but on the Gold Coast they found a region where gold could be
obtained, exported along established trade paths from the interior. Their
fort at Elmina ("the mine") was the first in a series of forts along the
Gold Coast designed to repel the other European seafarers who followed in
their wake, all struggling for their share of the profitable Gold Coast
In due course, however, slaves replaced gold as the most lucrative trade
along the coast, with the European slave buyers using the forts and
adjoining buildings for their own accommodation and protection, as well as
for storing the goods, mainly guns and gunpowder, which they would barter
for slaves. Some of the forts were also used for keeping newly acquired
slaves pending the arrival of the ships sent to collect them.
But while Europeans quarrelled over access to the coastal trade, and despite
the appalling depredations of the slave traders, which left whole regions
destroyed and depopulated, the shape of modern Ghana was being laid down. At
the end of the 17th century, there were a number of small states on the Gold
Coast; by 1750, these had merged, by conquest or diplomacy, into two: the
Asante empire, and the Fante empire. By the 19th century, the Asantes were
seeking mastery of the coast, and especially access to the trading post of
Elmina. By this time the British had won control of the coastal trade from
the other European nations, and their interests could not tolerate further
Asante expansion - more so since the Asante Empire was known for its
sophisticated administrative efficiency and would have been difficult or
impossible to best at trade. Nevertheless it took a series of military
campaigns over some 50 years before the British were finally able to force
the Asantes to give up sovereignty over their southern possessions. In a
final campaign in 1874 the British attempted, without success, to seize
Asante; they were however able to take Kumasi (capital of the Asante empire)
and exact a huge ransom for it in gold; and the vast Asante empire shrunk to
the Asante and Brong-Ahafo regions of modern Ghana.
Meanwhile, the Fantes too had been uniting and organizing, and in 1868
formed themselves into a confederacy under a king-president with a 15,000
strong army, a civil service and a constitution. In 1871 the British
arrested the Fante leaders for "treason". They were however freed a month
later, but the confederacy never recovered from the blow. In 1874 the
British formally established the British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast,
"legalizing" a colonial policy which had in fact been in force since the
signing of the bond between the coastal Chiefs and the British in 1844,
despite the fact that the Chiefs never ceded sovereignty to the British
under the bond, though some of them allowed British intervention in judicial
The Asante and Fante traditions of education and organization, and their
urge for autonomy, remained throughout the years of British colonial rule.
The Gold Coast was regarded as the showpiece of Britain's colonies: the
richest, the best educated, the first to have an elected majority in the
legislature and with the best organized native authorities. The Gold Coast
riots in 1948, which marked the start of the people's agitation for
independence, were instrumental in changing British policy and drove home
the point that colonialism had no future.
But a long struggle still lay ahead - and the man who was the catalyst of
that struggle was Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Born in 1909, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah trained as a teacher at Achimota College in
Ghana and then in the United States and Britain, where he obtained his
He became prominent as a leader of West African organizations in London and
was invited to return to Ghana as general secretary of the United Gold Coast
Convention. In 1949 he broke away to from the Convention People's Party with
the slogan "Self-Government Now".
In February 1951 the party swept to victory in the polls and became the
leaders of Govermnent business in the colony's first African government. The
Gold Coast had become the first British colony in Africa to achieve
On 6 March 1957 Ghana achieved independence - again, the first British
colony in Africa to do so - with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as its first
Prime Minister. On 1st July,1960 Ghana became a republic with Kwame Nkrumah
as its first President.