by Abayomi Azikiwe
A longtime leftist, Shirley Graham Du Bois had as much influence on her famous spouse he did on her. Both their lives ended in exile. Shirley Graham Du Bois explained to Africans: “Not only have the imperialists and racists robbed, plundered and ravaged this fruitful continent, but they have employed every means of degradation, oppression and shame to humiliate Africans and all the children of Africa.”
Anti-Imperialism, Pan-Africanism and Nkrumah’s Ghana: The Historic Role of Shirley Graham Du Bois
by Abayomi Azikiwe
This article previously appeared in Global Research.
“You can choose between blocs of military alliance, you can choose between groups of political union; you cannot choose between socialism and private capitalism because private capitalism is doomed.”
In 1957 there were very few liberated areas in Africa. Egypt had been considered independent for many years although prior to 1952, Cairo was largely a neo-colony of Britain as a result of its control over the Suez Canal. President Gamal Abdel Nasser, a co-leader in the Free Officers Movement which seized power on July 23, 1952, after consolidating power some two years later in 1954, nationalized the Canal in 1956.
In response Britain, France and the State of Israel invaded the North African state with the intent to remove the Nasser government. The United States under the-then President Dwight D. Eisenhower viewed the British-led intervention as an effort to reassert London’s imperialist project which had been severely curtailed as a result of World War II, threatened to withdraw Washington’s underpinning of their national economy if the intervention was not halted.
The action taken by Nasser represented the emerging assertiveness of African and other oppressed nations during the 1950s. It was in 1954 that the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) launched its armed struggle against French colonialism which had dominated the country since 1830. It has been estimated that one million Algerians died during the liberation war, however the movement prevailed over the conventional military superiority of Paris.
Sudan gained its independence from Britain in early 1956. The people had engaged in anti-colonial revolts since the latter years of the 19th century.
During the European colonial period the nations of Ethiopia and Liberia were considered independent. Nonetheless, with these states being surrounded and under the economic dominance by the imperialist countries they could in no genuine sense be considered sovereign nations. Ethiopia was invaded by Italy in 1896 and 1935. Libyans fought a three decades-long war against Rome in the early years of the 20th century before being subsumed by imperialism.
The African Diaspora and the Anti-imperialist Struggle
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois (February 23, 1868-August 28, 1963) was described by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as the “Father of Pan-Africanism” due to his involvement in African affairs dating back to the late 19th century. In 1896, Dr. Du Bois completed his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University on the Suppression of the African Slave Trade, 1638-1870.
By 1900, Du Bois had traveled to London to participate in what is considered to be the First Pan-African Conference organized by Trinidadian Barrister Henry Sylvester Williams. Du Bois recalled that he was secretary of the Conference and drafted its resolutions.
Later he would convene a series of similar meetings known as the Pan-African Congresses from 1919 to 1923. By 1927, when the Fourth Pan-African Congress was held in New York City, it was being structured, organized and funded by the women’s organization the Circle for Peace and Foreign Relations, headed by Addie W. Hunton, a prominent African American who had intervened in support of Black soldiers during their deployment in France for the U.S. at the conclusion of World War I.
Hunton and her predecessor Anna J. Cooper were instrumental in the rise of independent African organizational culture emanating from the late 19th early 20th centuries. Both Cooper and Hunton were internationalists in their outlooks and had definite views on the essential role of women in social transformation and political development.
Lola Shirley Graham was born on November 11, 1896 in Indianapolis, Indiana, the daughter of an African Methodist Episcopal minister. She had initially met W.E.B. Du Bois through her father while she was a child.
Graham Du Bois attended the Sorbonne in France to study music and later enrolled at Oberlin College in Ohio, renowned for its training of African American women dating back to the pre-Civil War period. She obtained both a bachelor’s and master’s degree at Oberlin in music during 1934 and 1935 respectively.
Graham Du Bois became a prolific writer, composing plays, musicals and publishing biographies. She would spend decades in the theatre while maintaining an interest in political movements as well. She became an organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where her future husband was a co-founder, serving as the editor of the Crisis Magazine from 1910-1934.
Her politics moved more to the Left resulting in her joining the Communist Party of the U.S. during the 1940s and serving on a high level within its structures and concomitant mass groups and coalitions that were either controlled or influenced by the Marxist-Leninist Party. With the passing of W.E.B. Du Bois’ first wife Nina Gomer in 1950, Graham Du Bois became closer to the retired professor and prodigious author.
“Her politics moved more to the Left resulting in her joining the Communist Party of the U.S.”
Her burgeoning personal relationship with Du Bois moved him further into left-wing circles, becoming a consistent ally on the periphery of the CP. Du Bois was a leading member of the Council on African Affairs (CAA) which was founded in the late 1930s by perhaps the leading artist in the U.S., Paul Leroy Robeson, a graduate of Princeton and Columbia University Law School who became an actor, singer and social scientist.
By 1945, Du Bois would travel to Manchester, England to serve as Chairman of the Fifth Pan-African Congress. Other leading people within the conference were George Padmore, an African-Trinidadian who was the former leader of the Red International Labor Union (Profintern) and a member of the Communist Party in the U.S., who later broke with Moscow in 1934 after the rise of Germany as a fascist state. In addition to Padmore, Francis Kwame Nkrumah, was the organizing secretary for the Manchester gathering.
Nkrumah, from the Nzima people of western Gold Coast, had studied for ten years in the U.S. (1935-1945) at Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania. During his tenure in America in addition to obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees in Philosophy, Economics and Theology, Nkrumah had become a licensed minister providing him with platforms to speak in African American churches and other social organizations.
After being involved in the Left, nationalist and Pan-African movements in the U.S., Nkrumah moved to England in 1945 with the hopes of pursuing a doctorate at the London School of Economics. Instead he became enmeshed in the anti-colonial milieu in Britain. He was embraced by Padmore, by then a well-known journalist who wrote extensively on African affairs.
The resolutions of the Fifth PAC were far more radical than preceding conferences held between 1900 and 1927. A stronger participation of labor and farmer organizations along with youth ensured a more forward looking political direction.
“The resolutions of the Fifth PAC were far more radical than preceding conferences held between 1900 and 1927.”
Moreover, the weakening of heretofore dominant European imperialist states such as England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany provided an incentive for colonial territories to adopt an aura of urgency in regard to the attainment of national independence and sovereignty. The U.S. which emerged triumphantly from World War II, became the supreme imperialist center of global hegemony backed by international finance capital based in New York.
Although Washington paid lip service to the notions of self-determination for colonial peoples, there was still a protracted struggle to be waged against the rising Socialist camp. The Soviet Union, which bore the brunt of the fighting against Nazi Germany, was able to maintain its existence and expand anti-capitalist influence through the founding of several socialist governments in Eastern Europe.
Asia witnessed revolutions which consolidated after the War in North Korea, North Vietnam and mainland China provided a clear social and economic alternative for the colonized territories. Consequently, by 1947 a Cold War surfaced pitting the world capitalist system against the Socialist countries.
In 1950 full-scale war erupted again in Korea over the direction of the peninsula formally dominated by Japan from 1905 to 1945. The Korean War (1950-53) resulted in the deaths of four million people. The deployment of the 500,000-member Chinese People’s Volunteer Army beat back U.S. imperialism ensuring the survival of the North leading to the formation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Increasing numbers of people and territories were seeking a way out of the capitalist and imperialist system.
The Du Boises, Pan-Africanism and Cold War Repression
The year 1948 became a watershed in the intensifying hostility among the two rival camps as the Left in the U.S. began to advocate for peaceful coexistence between the differing social systems of capitalism and socialism. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an effort to stave off a total collapse of the capitalist system in the U.S., adopted socialistic reforms such as controls on the banking industry, the creation of social security, welfare, unemployment benefits, and public works projects aimed at infrastructural development and employment creation.
These programs did not emerge from the imagination of Roosevelt. They were demands advanced by the CP and other mass organizations aimed at tackling joblessness, hunger, home foreclosures and evictions as well as the threat of global class warfare. The inability of capitalism to resolve its own internal crises was revealed during the 1930s as the Great Depression did not end until the entrance of the U.S. into World War II in December 1941.
Threats of another imperialist instigated conflagration were all too real by 1948-49. Du Bois’ refusal to go along with the Cold War domestic policies of the administration of President Harry S. Truman, which was the adoption of an anti-communist position in exchange for minimal reforms in the areas of Civil Rights. In the aftermath of the War, there was an upsurge in racist violence directed towards African Americans. Therefore, the symmetry of national oppression and hostility against the Socialist camp necessitated a duplicitous stance on the part of the U.S. ruling class.
Du Bois’ rejection of the Truman candidacy of 1948 and his embrace of Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party sped-up his inevitable departure from the NAACP for the second time in a decade-and-a-half. After his attendance at the Paris Peace Conference of 1949 and the advocacy of détente with the Soviet Union and China, Du Bois became a target of the federal government. By 1951 he and four associates were under indictment for failing to register as an agent of a foreign government.
It was during this period that Du Bois married Shirley Graham. They embarked upon a national tour of the U.S. to build support for his acquittal. The case against Du Bois collapsed under the weight of its own folly. Nonetheless, many other prominent Leftists were convicted on similar charges resulting in prison terms, deportations and professional isolation. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed by the American government in 1953 for purportedly sharing nuclear information with the Soviet Union.
Shirley Graham Du Bois and her new husband had their passports confiscated by the U.S. government preventing them from traveling abroad during the years of 1950-1958. After the Supreme Court held that these measures were unconstitutional, the Du Boises went on a world tour of Europe, Asia and Africa.
Graham Du Bois visited Ghana in December 1958 to address the All-African People’s Conference held in Accra. The event attracted the participation of 62 national liberation organizations from around the continent.
“Shirley Graham Du Bois and her new husband had their passports confiscated by the U.S. government preventing them from traveling abroad during the years of 1950-1958.”
The paper delivered by Graham Du Bois on behalf of her husband entitled, “The Future of All-Africa Lies in Socialism”, asserted that:
“Africa, ancient Africa, has been called by the world and has lifted up her hands! Africa has no choice between private capitalism and socialism. The whole world, including capitalist countries, is moving toward socialism, inevitably, inexorably. You can choose between blocs of military alliance, you can choose between groups of political union; you cannot choose between socialism and private capitalism because private capitalism is doomed.”
This address goes on to ask: But what is socialism? “It is a disciplined economy and political organization in which the first duty of a citizen is to serve the state; and the state is not a selected aristocracy, or a group of self-seeking oligarchs, who have seized wealth and power. No! The mass of workers with hand and brain are the ones whose collective destiny is the chief object of all effort.
“Gradually, every state is coming to this concept of its aim. The great Communist states like the Soviet Union and China have surrendered completely to this idea. The Scandinavian states have yielded partially; Great Britain has yielded in some respects, France in part, and even the United States adopted the New Deal which was largely socialism; though today further American socialism is held at bay by 60 great groups of corporations who control individual capitalists and the trade union leaders.”
Such an appeal to the national liberation movements and independent states would of course draw the negative attention of U.S. and world imperialism. This concern was reflected in the thousands of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files which were meticulously kept on both W.E.B. and Shirley Graham Du Bois in this period.
After traveling to the People’s Republic of China in 1959 the Du Boises were accused of being in violation of U.S. policy of entering Socialist states without authorization. Their passports were revoked once again. They then successfully appealed this decision which provided the activist couple with the capacity to visit Ghana in July 1960 to attend the Republic Day ceremonies and the Conference of the Women of Africa and African Descent.
Intelligence agencies were concerned about the travel plans of the couple. A confidential FBI memorandum from the office of John Edgar Hoover, Director, forwarded to the Office of Security Department of State dated June 20, 1960, noted that the Du Boises had been issued passports on June 7. The applications for the passports revealed the couple would leave New York by air on June 20 to visit Ghana to attend the ceremonies surrounding the establishment of the First Republic headed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
“After traveling to the People’s Republic of China in 1959 the Du Boises’ passports were revoked once again.”
This memo also made reference to the awarding of the Lenin Peace Prize to Dr. Du Bois by the Soviet government. Linking the Du Boises to the Communist movement the document reads:
“William Du Bois is Negro author, lecturer and scholar who has [a] long history of affiliation with communist front groups. He was a recipient of a 1958 international Lenin Peace Prize awarded by the Soviet Government. His wife has also had history of association with front groups. Subjects have received official invitation to attend the ceremonies of the inauguration of the new Government of Ghana. Pertinent reports and memoranda concerning subjects have previously been furnished State and CIA, who are interested both in subject William Du Bois’ receipt of the Lenin Peace Prize and in the foreign travel of both subjects. Information re: passports telephonically furnished to Liaison Section by State Department.”
The Chicago Daily Defender, an African American publication, reported on September 4, 1960 that Graham Du Bois would be a featured speaker at an event planned for November 8 at Carnegie Hall in New York entitled “Rally for Peace and Friendship.” The event was sponsored by the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (NCASF).
This same report indicated the Du Boises spent July and August in Ghana where in addition to participation in the Republic Day activities, Graham Du Bois served as head of a delegation of African American women who attended the Conference of Women of Africa and African Descent held in Accra. While in Ghana, the Du Boises toured the country visiting various villages, cities and rural communities in an effort assess the social and economic measures being implemented by the people.
Ghana, Socialist Construction and the African Revolution
Ghana gained independence in 1957 and became a Republic in 1960 with Kwame Nkrumah moving from being Prime Minister to President. The Du Boises were invited guests of the state ruled by the CPP and President Nkrumah. They were asked by the government to remain in Ghana and become full citizens. Du Bois was solicited to establish his long-planned Encyclopedia Africana Project aimed at the rewriting of African history from the perspective of the people themselves.
Although they returned to the U.S. in 1960, by the following year the Du Boises had relocated in Ghana. A report in the Ghana Evening News on October 11, 1961 stated the couple had arrived in the country that very morning. In another article published by the Evening News on October 16, reports the Du Boises had been paid a visit by the People’s Republic of China Ambassador to Ghana, Huang Hua and his wife, over the weekend of October 14-15. The article notes the ambassador “had a friendly talk with them.”
The following year on December 17, 1962, the FBI was advised by an undisclosed (redacted) source that high-ranking Communist Party African American official Henry Winston, while visiting Moscow had indicated during a personal conversation which took place in November, that Du Bois and his wife Shirley:
“after five weeks in China during late September and October, 1962, stayed in Moscow for twelve days in November, 1962. In China, the Chinese treated them lavishly and gave them many gifts. William Du Bois received medical attention, which, together with treatment received in Great Britain, he credits for saving his life. This same treatment was refused him by the Soviets due to his advanced age. The overall effect of the China visit on the Du Boises was great to the point that Shirley Du Bois thinks of the Chinese as ‘racial brothers’.”
This FBI document goes on to emphasize that:
“The Soviets are fearful of the Chinese influence on the Du Boises, in that they may lose their support in the ideological dispute with the Chinese. To counter this, the Soviets had Winston return to Moscow from Sofia, Bulgaria, to discuss matters with the Du Boises. The Soviets showered Du Bois with gifts and honors and arranged meetings with Brezhnev, President of the USSR, and with Khrushchev. Although the Soviets were not completely successful with William Du Bois, and much less successful with Shirley Du Bois, they were able to get William Du Bois to issue a public statement supporting the Soviet position in Cuba. Another reason why the Soviets tried to influence William Du Bois is that he is very close to President Nkrumah of Ghana, a leader of the neutralist camp. The Soviets believe that they can determine Nkrumah’s position and policy through Du Bois.”
Through other quotes attributed to either one or both of the Du Boises, whose sources are not cited in the FBI files from the above-mentioned report, says:
“We are the only American Negroes in Ghana who have visited the Peoples Republic of China. I assure you that none of the remarks attributed to these ‘American Negroes’ were ever uttered by either of us. As you know we were very recently in China as well as in the Soviet Union. During this time in both countries we talked with the highest leaders as well as people in all walks of life. But we do not feel equipped to hand out advice to either of these Socialist Giants as to how they should settle their differences.”
“While in Ghana, Graham Du Bois continued to write extensively on the freedom movements of African Americans in the U.S. as well as the overall global anti-imperialist struggle.”
The FBI document then goes on to suggest that the Soviets being fearful of Chinese influence in Africa, were preparing Winston for a visit to the continent. Agencies apparently believed or had been informed that Dr. Du Bois had arranged for Winston to travel to Ghana. There was also the hope that Winston would visit other states in Africa as well in April 1963.
While in Ghana, Graham Du Bois continued to write extensively on the freedom movements of African Americans in the U.S. as well as the overall global anti-imperialist struggle.
In the February 1963 edition of The World Review, the journal of the NCASF, on page 17, there was an article by Graham Du Bois entitled “January 8 in Ghana.” This article reviewed the mass struggle of the Ghanaian people against British colonialism which resulted in the release of Nkrumah from prison in February 1951 and the development of a path towards the acquisition of national independence in 1957. January 8, 1950 was the day of “Positive Action” where the CPP called for a national strike demanding independence for the Gold Coast.
Political Affairs, the theoretical journal of the Communist Party in the U.S., published an article by Graham Du Bois entitled “Africa Must Save the Congo”, where the author traces the events inside the mineral-rich Central African state from the period of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba’s appeal to the United Nations for assistance in the early days of independence in after June 30, 1960. She concludes that imperialism has created a disastrous crisis inside the country and consequently prevented the UN from bringing stability. She reports that African states were working towards a solution to the Congo problem.
Du Bois became the Director of Encyclopedia Africana and served in that capacity until his death inside the country on August 28, 1963. FBI files reveal that Graham Du Bois renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a citizen of the Republic of Ghana in October 1963.
A memorandum from the Department of Justice FBI dated October 10, says: “On October 4, 1963, the United States Embassy at Accra, Ghana, advised the Department of State that subject had renounced her United States Citizenship under Section 349 (A) (6) Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, on that date. On October 5, 1963, the Embassy advised as follows: Subject intends to apply for United States visa for a Ghanaian passport in order to come to the United States in February, 1964, to attend a memorial rally in honor of her late husband, W.E.B. Du Bois. It was believed that Kwame Nkrumah, Chief of State of Ghana, and the Ghanaian press will be severely critical of the United States Government if subject is denied a visa.”
Subsequently, Graham Du Bois was denied a visa to reenter the U.S. By the concluding months of 1963, the Cold War atmosphere surrounding the direction of the Civil Rights Movement had become even more pronounced. The March on Washington of August 28, 1963 was held on the same day as the passing of Dr. Du Bois. Although NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins acknowledged the death of the co-founder of the organization, he slandered the legacy of Dr. Du Bois by claiming that he had taken another path in recent years.
“Graham Du Bois renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a citizen of the Republic of Ghana in October 1963.”
The spring and summer months of 1963 were marked by heightened mobilizations on the part of the African American people against legalized segregation and national oppression. Events in Birmingham, Alabama; Danville, Virginia; Cambridge, Maryland; Somerville, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi, among many other areas, had aroused the national consciousness in the U.S. and around the world.
Mao-Tse-tung, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC), issued a statement in response to the unrest in the U.S. marred by the assassination of Medgar Evers, the NAACP Field Secretary in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 12. Reviewing the events of 1963, Mao condemned the U.S. for its treatment of the African American people. He began the statement by acknowledging that former NAACP leader in Monroe, North Carolina, Robert F. Williams, then living in exile in Cuba, had urged him on two occasions to make a comprehensive appeal for global support of the African American struggle against the racist U.S. political system.
In concluding this statement issued on August 8, the CPC leader called upon the peoples of the world to express their unconditional solidarity with the African American people:
“I call upon the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie, and other enlightened personages of all colors in the world, white, black, yellow, brown, etc., to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and to support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination.
“In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling clique among the whites which is oppressing the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals, and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists, headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are carrying out oppression, aggression and intimidation against the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world. They are the minority, and we are the majority. At most they make up less than ten percent of the 3,000 million people of the world. I am deeply convinced that, with the support of more than ninety per cent of the people of the world, the just struggle of the American Negroes will certainly be victorious. The evil system of colonialism and imperialism grew on along with the enslavement of the Negroes and the trade in Negroes; it will surely come to its end with the thorough emancipation of the black people.” (Peking Review, No. 33, Aug. 16, 1963)
The lingering Cold War mentality of two African American leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, James Farmer, the Executive Secretary of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who at the time was serving a jail sentence in Louisiana, and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, immediately rejected the statement issued by Chairman Mao. Graham Du Bois, in an article entitled “The Great Debate”, admonished Wilkins and Farmer for their anti-Communist responses.
Graham Du Bois accused Farmer of being brainwashed for symbolically biting the hand stretched out to assist him in his Louisiana jail cell. Wilkins’ championed the welcoming of the leadership of the March on Washington by President Kennedy and the legislation submitted to Congress for a Civil Rights bill in the summer of 1963 as proof that African Americans did not need the support of CPC. Conversely, Graham Du Bois noted that the anti-Communist statement by Farmer issued on August 20 could not free him from detention in Louisiana so he could participate in the March on Washington.
“Graham Du Bois admonished Wilkins and Farmer for their anti-Communist responses.”
The recently-naturalized Ghanaian citizen stressed that people around the world had praised the call by the CPC Chairman to unite in support of the African American struggle. She stressed that never before had such an appeal been made by a large and powerful nation like China.
She went on saying:
“We, in soon-to-be-united Africa, hear this call and the accompanying statement with uplifted hearts. Africans know well that the discrimination practiced in the United States is indeed discrimination against Africa, that not only have the imperialists and racists robbed, plundered and ravaged this fruitful continent, but they have employed every means of degradation, oppression and shame to humiliate Africans and all the children of Africa. The wealth, prosperity and advancement of the United States were built on the annihilation of one people (the American Indian) and the enslavement of another. Beginning with all the back-breaking labor of clearing and developing wilderness and building cities, the Negro’s contribution mounts and expands through every field of endeavor—reaching particular heights in music, literature and science.” (Muhammad Speaks, Nov. 22, 1963, pp. 19-20)
In early 1964, Graham Du Bois was appointed by Nkrumah as Director of Ghana National Television. The project was a massive undertaking which required the solicitation of support from other sympathetic nations. Eventually the Japanese Sanyo Corporation agreed to supply much needed technical assistance.
Not only was she involved in the development of the first national television network in Ghana, Graham Du Bois was functioning on a high level within the CPP government as an administrator within the state publishing house. She worked directly with President Nkrumah and was a part of his inner circle of advisors.
After returning from the Second Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) held in Cairo, Egypt in July 1964, where she consulted with Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik Shabazz) on the efforts of the newly-founded Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) to build support for the struggle inside the U.S. among heads-of-state, the UN and national liberation movements, she would announce the convening of a course on television screenwriting in Accra. The aim was to train a cadre of writers for Ghana National Television which was due to be launched in a few months.
She had signed up Donald Ogden Stewart, the American Communist expatriate living in London, to serve as Director of Television Writing. Stewart was a screenwriter, widely known for his sophisticated comedies and melodramas, such as The Philadelphia Story (based on the play by Philip Barry), Tarnished Lady and Love Affair.
In a letter to her New York-based attorney, Bernard Jaffe, she reported that she had received nearly 150 letters of application for the class. The course began with 76 people in attendance. By October 17, 1964, after ten weeks, there was regular participation of fifty to sixty people every week. She pointed out the uneven development of the students which were lectured by her in basic writing and techniques for television broadcasting.
“The wealth, prosperity and advancement of the United States were built on the annihilation of one people (the American Indian) and the enslavement of another.”
A subsequent letter to Jaffe from Graham Du Bois dated February 21, 1965, discusses the mounting pressure by the imperialist states on the CPP government. She conveys to her lawyer how:
“It would be silly to emphasize that Africa is going through a crucial period when the entire world seems to be hurtling through space bent on its own destruction. Until a few months ago Ghana seemed like a safe haven busily intent on attending to its own pressing business, organizing and developing at breakneck speed, working hard and running forward. We never attempted to isolate ourselves—but we do steer our own ship and hold high a pilot light for the rest of Africa. So what happens? Attempts at assassination fail. Attempts at stirring up internal dissension fail! We keep moving forward. So now the World Marketers close in! They are trying to strangle our economy, cut off our trade, freeze certain foreign exchange, while, at the same time, choke us with foreign goods. Nkrumah answers by refusing to release precious cocoa, imposing rigid import restrictions and telling us we must DO WITHOUT until new adjustments can be made with socialist countries! It will work. Nobody is going to starve, but new, industrial projects such as TELEVISION have been hard hit. Television must import everything in the line of equipment and working materials. And here we are—in the last quarter, ready to make final preparation for beginning and unable to get final essentials for our work. I must ‘hold the line’ ‘keep high the morale and spirits of my workers’, continue with everything it is possible to do—and there is much to do—and radiate assurance that everything will be all right!”
One year after this letter was written the CPP government under President Nkrumah was overthrown in a U.S.-engineered police and military coup. Nkrumah was out of the country on a peace mission to China and North Vietnam seeking to find a solution to the escalating imperialist war against the people of Southeast Asia. The coup led to the purging of the CPP from government and the elimination of hundreds of political and economic projects.
Graham Du Bois was placed under house arrest while being removed from her directorship of Ghana National Television. Many others were killed, imprisoned and driven into exile. Nkrumah left Peking after being told of the coup stopping over in Cairo en route to Conakry, Guinea led by President Ahmed Sekou Toure, Secretary General of the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG).
“Graham Du Bois was placed under house arrest while being removed from her directorship of Ghana National Television.”
Nkrumah was given not only political asylum in Guinea but was appointed by the government as co-president. He would settle there until 1971 when he was sent to Bucharest, Romania for treatment of cancer. He died on April 27, 1972.
Graham Du Bois was able to leave Ghana and would settle in Cairo and the People’s Republic of China where she died in 1976.
The role of Shirley Graham Du Bois and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois in Ghana was indicative of the political character of the CPP government from the period of tactical action (1951-56) to independence (1957-66). Hundreds of African Americans either visited or settled in Ghana during this time period, many of whom making technical and political contributions to the African Revolution which was centered in Accra.
Since the 1960s, the work of the Du Boises has gained attention among many students, intellectuals and activists in the U.S. and internationally. Nevertheless, the political significance of their contributions remains highly obscured due to the continuing institutionally racist and anti-Communist social atmosphere which prevails in colleges and universities in America.
The current generation of activists and intellectuals must unearth and review these monumental achievements in order to gain clearer insight into the actual political, social and economic history of the U.S. There is much within this period of 20th century historical processes that could be utilized in building stronger movements for Pan-Africanism and Socialism in the contemporary era.
Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire.