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General News of Monday, 23 September 2019


How Kwame Nkrumah chose Ghana over completing his PhD in 1947

Kwame Nkrumah delivering a speech Kwame Nkrumah delivering a speech

Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah would have been about 110 years old if he was alive today and his role in Ghana’s history didn’t die with him despite the myriad of opposition allegations against him even in the 21st century.

With a knack for education, Kwame Nkrumah failed the entrance examination for London University and moved to the U.S. in 1935 and enrolled into Lincoln College, Lincoln's seminary and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for a master’s degree.

However, he was torn between a doctorate and leading his country in 1947. He chose the latter which subsequently accorded him several doctorates from many prestigious universities including Lincoln University, Moscow State University, Cairo University, Jagiellonian University and Humboldt University.

“In May 1945, Nkrumah, then known as Francis Nkrumah, moved to London and in June began investigating completing his PhD at LSE. On 9 June L G Robinson, Dean of the Graduate School, invited Nkrumah to an interview with himself and the Professor Morris Ginsberg in LSE’s Second World War home at Cambridge. Robinson wrote to Ginsberg that Nkrumah wished to return to the Gold Coast, a British colony, and hoped to obtain his PhD in Britain,” said a 2018 article about Nkrumah’s brief time at the London School of Economics and Political Science written by the school’s archivist, Sue Donnelly.

Kwame Nkrumah’s LSE application form. Credit: LSE

“Nkrumah was accepted for study with reservations. After Audrey Richards had read the thesis, she confirmed that his work was up to PhD standard but felt that his anthropological training was weak and suggested that a better title would be Akan Thought Patterns in Relation to Their Social Structure.

“Richards also questioned whether Nkrumah had sufficient funding to undertake his studies. The title of the thesis and its relationship with anthropology was to be an ongoing issue of contention between Nkrumah and the School,” Donnelly added.

Nkrumah was reportedly unhappy with anthropology and wanted to start again in political science but Audrey Richards had told Robinson that Nkrumah had done little work and was not attending lectures and seminars. They were not aware of his deep involvement with the 5th Pan-African Congress held in Manchester in October 1945.

L G Robinson, c1940. Credit: LSE Library

The Dean of the Graduate School, L G Robinson, wrote to UCL after the complaints saying: “Mr Nkrumah has in fact been in touch with us since July 1945 and was definitely registered for the PhD in Social Anthropology from the beginning of the session but things have not gone very well. His declared interest from the beginning was in a mixture of philosophy and matters that in our view came under the heading of Social Anthropology, and it was hoped that he might develop more anthropological interest and produce a thesis of the right type for that Department. These hopes however have not been realised. Mr Nkrumah is plainly not willing to concentrate on anthropological studies and we can really offer him no proper supervision in his more philosophical bent. There is, therefore, no question that this School would raise no objection if you wish to register Mr Nkrumah.”

A year later in 1947, Kwame Nkrumah moved to the Gold Coast after accepting the role of General Secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the British colony’s first pro-independence political party.

He was recommended by Gold Coast lawyer Ebenezer Ako-Adjei who had met him at Lincoln University and was familiar with his activism. Nkrumah accepted the £250 salary and the boat ticket of £100 paid for by merchant and politician George Alfred Grant (Paa Grant) from Liverpool to the Gold Coast to start work.

He never completed his doctoral thesis but his work as a politician and impeccable ideals earned him the title Dr Kwame Nkrumah.