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From Kwame Nkrumah

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Author: Nkrumah, Kwame (Gold Coast)

Date: January 22, 1957

Location: Accra, Gold Coast

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Travels


Prime Minister Nkrumah invites King to attend the independence celebrations marking the transition of the British colony the Gold Coast to the new African nation of Ghana.1 King accepted the invitation on 12 February, and traveled with Coretta King to the festivities in early March.

ROOM 825,

Dear {Dr. King,}

I am enclosing, herewith, a formal invitation to the ceremonies which will be held in Accra between the 2nd and 10th March to mark the attainment of independence by the Gold Coast under the name of Ghana. It would give me great personal pleasure if you should be able to attend.

It is regretted that the limitations of the budget allowed for the celebrations will not permit the Government to bear the cost of your passage, but you would, of course, be a guest of the Government while you are in the country during and immediately before the period of the celebrations.

I attach a provisional outline programme and some notes on the country in particular relation to the celebrations.3 Apart from the central events covered by the programme, there will be a number of subsidiary functions which should be of interest.

Yours sincerely, 
[signed] Kwame Nkrumah 

1. Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972), born in Nkroful, Gold Coast, graduated from Achimota College in 1931. He later earned a B.A. (1939) and Th.B. (1942) from Lincoln University, and both an M.S. (1942) and M.A. (1943) from the University of Pennsylvania. While studying at the London School of Economics in 1945 and 1946, Nkrumah was active in several Pan-African organizations. In 1947 he returned home to serve as general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), which sought independence for the British colony. Dissatisfied with the slow progress of the UGCC, Nkrumah created the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in 1949 to pursue self-government through a campaign of nonviolence and non-cooperation. Imprisoned for sedition in 1950, Nkrumah was released in 1951 when British-sanctioned elections overwhelmingly placed him and the CPP in power. Under a British program known as “creative abdication,” Nkrumah became the first African-born prime minister in the history of the British Commonwealth. On 6 March 1957 the Gold Coast became the independent nation of Ghana, with Nkrumah as prime minister; in 1960 he became the republic’s first president, remaining in office until being overthrown in 1966.

2. This letter was initially sent to Bayard Rustin, who had arranged the invitation for King with the help of his friend Bill Sutherland, an African-American pacifist then working for Nkrumah’s finance minister, K. A. Gbedemah. In a 24 January letter to Rustin, Sutherland gave King advice on appropriate attire and other details about the trip (see Rustin to Sutherland, 8 February 1957; see also King’s belated thank-you letters to Nkrumah and Gbedemah, 17 April 1959 and 4 May 1959, respectively).

3. Program, “Ghana Independence Celebrations,” and “Ghana Independence Celebrations,” both dated 22 January 1957; see also Invitations for the celebrations for Ghana’s Independence, 5 March - 11 March 1957.

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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