Books by Peter
Tell Freedom; Memories of
The Path of Thunder
A Wreath for Udomo /
Return to Goli
* * *
Books by Kwame Nkrumah
Consciencism: Philosophy and the Ideology for
Decolonization (1970) /
Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism
Africa Must Unite
Ghana: Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah /
Dark Days in Ghana /
Class Struggle in Africa /
The Struggle Continues
* * * *
Books by Jomo Kenyatta
Facing Mt. Kenya /
African Socialism and Its Application to Planning in Kenya
Suffering Without Bitterness
Harambee! The Prime Minister of Kenya's Speeches, 1963-1964
The Challenge of Uhuru
* * * *
Nkrumah, Kenyatta, and the Old Order
By Peter Abrahams
It was a hot, humid, oppressive August day in
Accra, capital of the Gold Coast that was to become Ghana. The
air had the stillness of death. I walked down toward the sea
front. Perhaps there would be the hint of a breeze there. As I
neared the sea front I was assailed by a potent stench of the
sea with strong overtones of rotting fish.
The houses were drab, run-down wooden
structures or made of corrugated iron, put together any way you
please. The streets were wide and tarred, and each street had an
open-drainage system into which young boys and old men piddled
when they needed to relieve themselves. I have seen women empty
chamber pots into these drains in the early morning. The fierce
sun takes care of the germs, but God help you if smells make you
In about eight minutes of walking, some
fifteen "taxis" pulled up beside me: "Hi, massa!
Taxi, massa! Me go anywhere you go cheap!" They are all
private taxis with no meters and driven by strapping young men
with flashing teeth. The place is full of taxi drivers willing
to go anywhere and do anything cheap.
The street traders here are women.
"Mammy traders," they are called. They trade in
everything. They sell cigarettes, one at a time; round loaves of
bread and hunks of cooked meat on which the big West African
flies make sport. They love bargaining and haggling. They are a
powerful economic factor in the life of the country. The more
prosperous ones own their own trucks, some own fleets of trucks.
These "mammy trucks" are the principal carriers of the
country. They carry passengers as well as produce and go
hurtling across the countryside with little regard for life or
limb. Each truck has its own distinctive slogan, such as: Repent
For Death is Round the Corner, or Enter Without Hope, or The
Last Ride or If It Must It Will. My own favorite, and I traveled
in this particular truck, pleaded, Not Today O Lord Not Today.
I passed many mammy traders, many mammy
trucks, before I reached the sea front. I crossed a street,
jumped over an open drain, and there was the sea. But there was
no breeze, and no shade from the terrible sun. In the end I gave
in to the idea of "taxi, massa, taxi" and looked about
for one. But now there was no taxi in sight. Instead, I saw,
suddenly, a long procession of many women and a few men. The
procession swung around a corner and came into full view, twenty
or thirty yards long. The women wore white flowing robes and
white handkerchiefs on their heads. The faces were painted into
grotesques masks made with thick streaks of black, red, white
and yellow paints. the heavy thud of bare feet rose above the
hum of the sea.
Then, all at once, the drums burst forth and
there was no other sound about me. The marching women began to
jig, then dance. As the tail of the procession passed me the
drums reached a frenzy. A thin, pure note from a reed rose above
the drums. The whole procession became a shivering, shaking
mass. The reed note held longer than seemed human. And then,
dramatically, there was silence. The thudding feet faded away
out of sight and sound. There was silence and a slight racing of
my heartbeat and the hum of the sea, and, of course, the
overpowering fishy stench.
I thought of Richard Wright, with whom I had
had breakfast that morning. This was his first visit to any part
of Africa and he seemed to find it bewildering. Countee Cullen,
the late American Negro poet, had speculated:
scenes his fathers loved,
grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?
Wright was finding the answers and finding
them disconcerting. He had been astounded by the casual attitude
to sex. There was, he had said, too much sex, too casually given
and taken; so that it worked out as no sex, with none of the
emotional involvement associated with sex in the western mind.
He shook his head with a slight disgust. The open drains into
which young boys and old men piddled had led him to conclude
that Africans piddled rather more than any other people. The
sight of young men dancing together, holding hands, disturbed
the puritan in him. He expressed to me that morning what he
later summed up in his book on the Gold Coast: "I was black
and they were black but it did not help me."
What Wright did not understand, what his
whole background and training had made difficult for him to
understand was that being black did not of itself qualify one
for acceptance in tribal Africa. But how could he, when there
are thousands of urban-bred Africans up and down the vast
continent who do not themselves understand this? The more
perceptive of the urban Africans are only now beginning to
comprehend, but slowly.
Being black is a small matter in tribal
Africa because the attitude toward color is healthy and normal.
Color does not matter. Color is an act of God that neither
confers privileges nor imposes handicaps on a man. A man's skin
is like the day: the day is either clear or dark. There is
nothing more to it until external agencies come in an invest it
with special meaning and importance.
What does matter to the tribal African, what
is important, is the complex pattern of his position within his
own group and his relations with the other members of the group.
He is no Pan-African dreaming of a greater African glory when
the white man is driven into the sea. The acute race
consciousness of the American Negro, or of the black South
African at the receiving end of Apartheid, is alien to him. the
important things in his life are anything but race and
color--until they are forced on him. And "Mother
Africa" is much too vast to inspire big continental dreams
in him. She is a land of huge mountains, dark jungles, and vast
deserts. In her rivers and in her jungles and in her grasslands
lurk creatures that are the enemies of man: the leopard and the
lion, the snake and crocodile.
All this makes travel, by the old African
methods, extremely difficult and makes for isolation between one
group of people and another. The African who is in Britain is
likely to be a deal better informed on what is happening all
over the continent than would be his fellow African in any of
the main centers of both tribal and non-tribal Africa. In terms
of communications the man in the tribe lives in the Dark Ages.
Richard Wright was surprised that even
educated Africans, racially conscious literate people, had not
heard of him and were skeptical of a grown man earning his
living by writing. They could not understand what kind of
writing brought a man enough money to support a family. Wright
really wanted to understand the African, but--"I found the
African an oblique, a hard-to-know man."
My sympathies were all with Wright.
The heat and salty rancid fish smell had made
me desperately thirsty. Across the way a mammy trader squatted
beside her pile of merchandise: cooked meat, sweet potatoes--a
whole host of edibles--and some bottles of opaque white liquid
that could be either coconut milk or palm juice, as well as the
inevitable little pile of cigarettes priced at a penny apiece. I
had been warned of the risks involved in eating anything sold by
the street traders. But to hell with it. I was thirsty and not
exactly a stranger to African germs. I crossed the street, felt
the bottles and chose the one that seemed coolest and looked the
"One shilling." The carved ebony
face looked at me with dead eyes.
I pulled the screwed-up newspaper stopper
from the bottle, wiped its mouth and took a swig. I could not
decide whether it was coconut milk or palm juice. It had been
heavily watered down and sweetened. But it was wet and
thirst-quenching. I drank half the bottle, firmly ignoring the
little foreign bodies that floated in the liquid. then I paid
her and drank the rest. I put down the empty and began to move
"You African?" she asked in her
harsh, cold, masculine voice.
I stopped, turned and looked at her face It
was as deadly cold and impersonal as before: not a flicker of
feeling in her eyes. Like an African mask, I thought. But unlike
Wright, I did not try to penetrate it. I knew the futility of
trying. She would show feeling if and when she decided. not
"Yes," I said, and added,
"from the south. Far, far south." She paused for so
long that I began to move again.
"You like here?" Nationalism had
obviously touched her.
I turned back to her. "No," I said.
"Why you don't like?"
"I don't say I don't like."
"But you don't like?"
I showed her my teeth, African-wise, which is
neither smile nor grimace but a blending of the two. "You
like Africa?" I asked.
Now it was her turn to show me her teeth.
There was a flicker of feeling in her eyes, then they went dead
again. She nodded. I had established my claim. Only
outsiders--white people or the Richard Wright--liked or disliked
I left the mammy trader and carried on up the
smelly and hot street. Much and little had passed between us.
Out to sea some fishing boats appeared on the sky line. About me
were the citizens of Accra. Some wore the cloth of the
country--the men looking like pint-sized citizens of ancient
Rome painted black and the women looking extraordinary
masculine--and others wore western dress.
My thoughts shifted to my forthcoming meeting
with Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first Prime Minister. it was well
over seven years since I had last seen him, in London. Then he
was a poor struggling student; now he was the head of a state
and the spokesman for the great Pan-African dream of freedom and
This was the man who later made
common cause with the people of French Guinea, when they
voted for independence in 1958 and against membership in
DeGaulle's Fifth Republic--a move by Nkrumah that can
have great significance for the British Commonwealth.
Prime Minister MacMillan has indicated that Whitehall is
watching Nkrumah's "closer association" moves
with Guinea with keen interest. Prediction would be
idle, yet it is intriguing to speculate that an
ex-colony of Britain might bring an ex-colony of France
into the Commonwealth. This could be a dramatic
underscoring of the changing nature of colonialism in
Africa. And at the center of its is Kwame Nkrumah.
I remembered our past friendship and wondered what changes I
would find in him. Anyway, it was now nine A.M. and
my date with him was for 9:30. I would soon know. A few minutes later I flagged a taxi and
simply said, "Kwame's office."
A pale-brown West Indian miss was the Prime
Minister's secretary. She welcomed me as though I was a V.I.P.
The Prime Minister had not come back from a conference yet. This
tribal business was taking up a lot of his attention. She told
me with indignation how members of the Ashanti tribe had to
crawl on their bellies for some twenty yards into the presence
of their king, the Asantehene, and how tribalism had to give way
or there would be no progress. If she was any indication, then
Nkrumah was very worried about the opposition the tribesmen were
offering his western-style Convention People's Party.
A number of officials came in. The lady
stopped assailing the tribes. Then there was some bustle and the
Prime Minister arrived. In something just over five minutes he
had seen and dealt with these officials and I was ushered into
his office. It was a big pleasant, cool room.
Nkrumah came around his big official desk,
took my hand and led me to a settee near the window. the now
famous smile lit up his face. As we exchanged greetings, felt
each other out with small talk in an attempt to bridge the gap
of years, my mind went back to our London days. this poised,
relaxed man, with the hint of guarded reserve about him, was a
far cry from the friend I had last seen nearly eight years
For me, the most striking change of all was in
his eyes. They reflected an inner tranquility which was the one
thing the Nkrumah in Europe never had.
Even his name had been subtly different then.
He had been our friend Francis Nkrumah, an African student
recently arrived from the United States, and he had not seen
Africa for a decade and more. He had quickly become a part of
our African colony in London and had joined our little group,
the Pan-African federation in our protests against colonialism.
He was much less relaxed than most of us. his
eyes mirrored a burning inner conflict and tension. He seemed
consumed by a restlessness that led him to evolve some of the
most fantastic schemes.
The president of our federation was an East
African named Johnstone Kenyatta, the most relaxed,
sophisticated and "westernized" of the lot of us.
Kenyatta enjoyed the personal friendship of some of the most
distinguished people in English political and intellectual
society. He was subtle, subtle enough to attack one's principles
bitterly and retain one's friendship. He fought the British as
imperialists but was affectionate toward them as friends.
It was to this balanced and extremely cultured
man that Francis Nkrumah proposed that we form a secret society
called The Circle, and that each of us spill a few drops of our
blood in a bowl and so take a blood oath of secrecy and
dedication to the emancipation of Africa.
Johnstone Kenyatta laughed at the idea; he
scoffed at it as childish juju. He conceived our struggle in
modern, twentieth century terms with no ritualistic blood
nonsense. In the end Francis Nkrumah drifted away from us and
started his own little West African group in London. We were too
tame and slow for him. He was an angry young man in a hurry.
Then he went back to his part of Africa, and
Francis Nkrumah became Kwame Nkrumah. he set himself at the head
of the largely tribal populace and dabbled in blood ritual.
There was some violence, a spell in prison, and finally Nkrumah
emerged as the first African Prime Minister in a self-governing
British African territory.
Tribal myths grew up around him. he could make
himself invisible at will. he could go without food and sleep
and drink longer than ordinary mortals. He was, in fact, the
reincarnation of some of the most powerful ancestral spirits. he
allowed his feet to be bathed in blood.
By the time I visited the Gold Coast the
uneasy alliance between Nkrumah and the tribal chiefs had begun
to crack. A week or so before my arrival he had threatened that,
unless they co-operated with his government in turning the Gold
Coast into an efficient twentieth century state, he would make
them run so hard that they would leave their sandals behind
them. This was a calculated insult to the tribal concept that
the chief's bare feet must never touch the earth.
That was the beginning of the secret war.
Nkrumah thought he would win it easily. he was wrong. the chiefs
have not run, and today their opposition to him is even more
clear cut. Some of his own followers, like Joe Appiah, who
married the daughter of the late Sir Stafford Cripps, have
defected to the tribalists. they are biding their time: waiting
And they have, negatively, scored their
victories too. They have pushed him to a point where his regime
is, today, intolerant of opposition. the tribal society brooks
no opposition. Nkrumah's government banishes its most active
opponents. as a modern socialist leading a western-style
government he justifies this as a temporary expedient. But his
less sophisticated ministers frankly talk the tribal language of
strength, frankly express the tribal impulse to destroy those
who are out of step.
There was an air of delicacy about our
conversation and we were both aware of this. I asked him how he
was getting on with those civil servants who, a little time
earlier, had labeled him as an "irresponsible
agitator." He had nothing but praise for those who had
remained. Some resigned, among them the officer in charge of the
prison where Nkrumah had been detained, who refused openly to
serve under one of his former inmates. One or two other
die-hards of the old colonialism also pulled out, but in the
main the expatriate civil servants stayed on and rendered loyal
service, but he was preoccupied with Africanizing the service,
something which has largely come about now.
We touched on local politics. he let off at
full blast against the tribalist. I told him I had heard that
the Accra Club was still exclusively European. His eyes lit up.
"You wait and see," he said.
Then, in relation to nothing either of us had
said, he leaned toward me and exclaimed, "This place is
rich! God, man, there's so much riches here!"--as though
revelation had just been made to him.
But always, throughout our talk, I sensed a
new reserve, a new caution that had not been there in the young
student I had known in Europe.
As we talked in Nkrumah's cool
office that hot August day in Accra, my mind kept slipping back
to our mutual friend Jomo or Johnstone Kenyatta, [later to be]
imprisoned in his native Kenya for leading the Mau-Mau movement.
significantly, though we mentioned many friends, both Nkrumah
and I avoided mentioning Kenyatta. I had decided not to mention
him first. I had hoped Nkrumah would. He did not.
A year earlier, I had flown up
to Kenya from South Africa and visited Kenyatta. I felt terribly
depressed as I got off the plane. Things had grown so much
uglier in the Union. The barricades were up in the ugly war of
color. When I had left South Africa in the dim-and-distant past,
there were isolated islands where black and white could meet in
neutral territory. When I went back in 1952, the islands were
submerged under the rising tide of color hatreds, and I was glad
to quit that dark, unhappy land which yet compelled my love.
in this mood that I got off the plane. I had not seen my
friend Jomo for years. Now there he was, just outside
the airport terminal building, leaning on a heavy cane,
bigger than I remembered him in Europe, paunchy, his
face looking puffy. And behind him was a huge crowd of
I began to move toward
him when a lean-faced, lean-hipped white
colonial-administrator type suddenly appeared beside me
and said: "Mr. Abrahams." I stopped and thought,
Kenyatta also came forward.
The two men ignored each other. Lean-face introduced himself and
said the Colonial Office had alerted them that I was coming to
do some writings for the London Observer and they had
drawn up a provisional schedule for me. Had I done anything
Before I could answer, Kenyatta said,
"you are staying with me, of course." The old
detachment was back in his eyes. They seemed to say,
"You've got to choose, pal. let's see how you choose."
Lean-face said, "We've got something set
up for you tomorrow and --"
"I live in the bush," Kenyatta
It dawned on me that I had become, for the
moment, the battlefield of that horrible animal, the racial
struggle. I made up my mind, resenting both sides and yet
conscious of the crowd of Africans in the background. A question
of face was involved.
"I've promised to spend this weekend
with Mr. Kenyatta," I said.
Lean-face was graceful about it. I promised
to call at the Secretariat first thing on Monday morning. He
gave me a copy of the schedule that had been prepared for me and
wondered, sotto voce, whether I knew what I was letting
myself in for. Kenyatta assured me that I would be perfectly
safe, that nobody was going to cut my throat. I was aware that
they were talking to each other through me. I was aware that
they knew I was aware, and that made me bad-tempered.
"then I'll say good night, Mr. Abrahams,"
lean-face said pointedly.
As soo as he was out of hearing Kenyatta
began to curse.
"It's good to see you again, Johnstone,"
I gripped his hand.
"Jomo," he replied. The hint of
ironic speculation was back in his eyes. A slightly sardonic,
slightly bitter smile played on his lips.
"Welcome to Kenya, Peter," he said.
Then, abruptly: "Come meet the leaders of my people.
They've been waiting long."
We moved forward and the crowd gathered about
us. Jomo made a little speech in Kikuyu, then translated it for
my benefit. A little old man, ancient as the hills, with huge
holes in his ears, then welcomed me on behalf of the land and
its people. Again Jomo translated.
After this we all bundled into the fleet of
rattling old cars and set off for the Kikuyu reserve in the
heart of the African bush. Kenyatta became silent and strangely
remote during the journey.
We stopped at the old chief's compound, where
other members of the tribe waited to welcome me. By this time
the reception committee had grown to a few hundred. About me,
pervading the air, was the smell of burning flesh; a young cow
was being roasted in my honor. before I entered the house a
drink was handed to me. Another was handed to the old chief and
a third to Kenyatta. The old man muttered a brief incantation
and spilled half his drink on the earth as a libation. Jomo and
I followed suit. Then the three of us downed our drinks and
entered the house.
A general feasting and drinking then
commenced, both inside and outside the house. I was
getting a full ceremonial tribal welcome. the important
dignitaries of the tribe slipped into the room in twos and
threes, spoke to me through Kenyatta for a few moments, and then
went away, making room for others.
"Africa doesn't seem to change,"
Kenyatta murmured between dignitaries. There was a terrible
undercurrent of bitterness behind the softly murmured words. I
was startled by it and looked at his face. for a fleeting moment
he looked like a trapped, caged animal.
He saw me looking at him and quickly composed
his face into a slightly sardonic humorous mask. "Don't
look too closely," he said.
And still the dignitaries filed in, had a
drink, spoke their welcome and went out.
The ceremonial welcome reached its high point
about midnight. Huge chunks of the roasted cow were brought in
to us, and we gnawed at the almost raw meat between swigs of
liquor. Outside, there was muted drumming. Voices were growing
louder and louder.
Suddenly, in the midst of a long-winded
speech by an immensely dignified Masai chief from a neighborhood
and friendly tribe, Kenyatta jumped up, grabbed his heavy cane
and half staggered to the door.
"Come, Peter," he called.
Everybody was startled. i hesitated. He
raised his cane and beckoned to me with it. I knew that this
would be a dreadful breach of tribal etiquette.
"Come, man!" he snapped.
I got up, aware of the sudden silence that
had descended on the huge gathering. By some strange magic
everybody seemed to know that something had gone wrong.
"Jomo," I said.
"I can't stand any more," he
I followed him to the door. I knew the
discourtesy we were inflicting on the tribe. I also knew that my
friend was at the breaking point. We walked through the crowd of
people, got into Kenyatta's car and drove off into the night.
the African moon was big and yellow, bathing the land in a soft
light that almost achieved the clarity of daylight.
He took me to his home. It was a big,
sprawling, empty place on the brow of a hill. inside, it had
nothing to make for comfort. There were hard wooden chairs, a
few tables and only the bed in the bedroom. there were no books,
none of the normal amenities of western civilization. When we
arrived two women emerged from somewhere in the back and hovered
about in the shadows. They brought in liquor, but I never got a
clear glimpse of either of them. my friend's anguish of spirit
was such that I did not want to ask questions. We sat on the
veranda and drank steadily and in silence until we were both
miserably, depressingly drunk.
And then Kenyatta began to speak in a low,
bitter voice of his frustration and of the isolated position in
which he found himself. He had no friends. There was no one in
the tribe who could give him the intellectual companionship that
had become so important to him in his years in Europe. The
things that were important to him--consequential conversation,
the drink that represented a social activity rather than the
intention to get drunk, the concept of individualism, the
inviolability of privacy--all these were alien to the tribesmen
in whose midst he lived. So Kenyatta, the western man, was
driven in on himself and was forced to assert himself in tribal
terms. Only thus would the tribesmen follow him and so give him
his position of power and importance as a leader.
To live without roots is to live in hell, and
no man chooses to live in hell. the people who could answer his
needs as a western man had erected a barrier of color against
him in spite of the fact that the taproots of their culture had
become the taproots of his culture too. By denying him access to
those things which complete the life of western man, they had
forced him back into the tribalism from which he had so
painfully freed himself over the years.
None of this was stated explicitly by either
Kenyatta or myself. But it was there in his brooding bitter
commentary on both the tribes and the white settlers of the
land. For me Kenyatta became that night a man who in his own
life personified the terrible tragedy of Africa and the terrible
secret war that rages in it. He was the victim both of tribalism
and of westernization gone sick. His heart and mind and body
were the battlefield of the ugly violence known as the Mau-Mau
revolt long before it broke out in that beautiful land. The
tragedy is that he was so rarely gifted that he could have made
such a magnificent contribution in other circumstances.
Source: Jacob Drachler, African Heritage, 1964
Peter Abrahams (born March 3, 1919)
is a South African novelist
His father was
from Ethiopia and his mother was classified by South
Africa as a mixed race person, a "Kleurling" or Coloured.
He was born in Vrededorp,
nearby Johannesburg, but left South Africa in 1939.
He worked first as a sailor, and then as a
journalist in London, at which time, he lived with
his wife, Daphne, at Loughton.
Whilst in London, he met several important black
leaders and writers, such as Jomo Kenyatta. He then
settled in Jamaica in
1956. One of South
Africa's most prominent writers, his work deals with
political and social issues, especially with racism.
His novel, Mine Boy (1946), one of the first works
to bring him to critical attention, and his memoir Tell Freedom; Memories of
Africa (1954) deal in part with apartheid. His
other works include the story collection Dark
Testament (1942) and the novels The Path of Thunder (1948), A Wreath for Udomo (1956), A
Night of Their Own (1965), the Jamaica-set This
Island Now (1966, the only one of his novels
not set in Africa) and
The View from Coyaba (1985).
He also wrote This Island Now, which speaks to the
ways power and money can change most people's perspectives.
* * *
Peter Abrahams, born in a Johannesburg
slum of an Ethiopian father and a "Cape Coloured"
mother, is the best known of the South African Negro writers. he
and other novels, as well as an
Tell Freedom. In the lively article
excerpted here, he gives us a piece of candid journalism such as
few other writers would be in a position to do, for in writing
of his visits with Nkrumah and Kenyatta he is writing of men who
were his friends and intimates in the African colony in London
before the upsurge of independent states in Africa. Mr. Abrahams
has lived for many years outside his native continent, first in
England and now in the West Indies.
Written in 1959, the article may on some
political points be dated; and Mr. Abrahams may have
overestimated the damage done to Kenyatta's potentialities by
his ambivalent connections with tribal society.
But, on the whole, this article is a valuable
portrayal in personal terms of the tensions between
nation-building leaders and traditionally oriented masses. these
tensions could be of two sorts: in the case of Nkrumah they
would seem to be part of a clash between authoritarian
centralism and a variety of localisms; in the case of Kenyatta,
there seems to be in addition to the political dynamics, an
inner struggle of emotional commitments to both African and
Western patterns. [Jacob Drachler,
* * *
* * * * *
* * *
Jomo Kenyatta (c. 1894 – 22 August
1978) served as the first
Prime Minister (1963–1964) and
President (1964–1978) of
Kenya. He is considered the
founding father of the Kenyan nation.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Kenyatta International
Conference Centre, Nairobi's main street and main streets in
many Kenyan cities and towns, numerous schools, two Universities
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology), the
country's main referral hospital, markets, and housing estates
are named after Jomo Kenyatta. A statue in downtown Nairobi and
monuments all over Kenya stand in his honour. Kenya observed a
public holiday every 20 October in his honour until the new 2010
constitution abolished Kenyatta Day and replaced it with
Mashujaa (Heroes') day. Kenyatta's face adorns
Kenyan currency notes and coins of all denominations, but
this is expected to change as the new constitution bans the use
of the portrait of any person on Kenya's currency. . . .
Kenyatta had two children from his first marriage with Grace
Wahu: son Peter Muigai Kenyatta (born 1920), who later became a
deputy minister; and daughter
Margaret Kenyatta (born 1928). Margaret served as mayor of
Nairobi between 1970–76 and then as Kenya's ambassador to the
United Nations from 1976 -86. Grace Wahu died in April 2007.
He had one son, Peter
Magana Kenyatta (born 1943) from his short marriage with Edna
Clarke. His third wife, Grace Wanjiku, died when giving birth
in 1950. Daughter Jane Wambui survived. His fourth wife, the
best known due to her role as
First Lady, was
Ngina Kenyatta (née Muhoho), also known as Mama Ngina. She
often accompanied him in public and also has some streets in
Nairobi and Mombasa named after her. She bore Kenyatta four
children: Christine Wambui (born 1952), Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta
(born 1961), Anna Nyokabi (also known as Jeni) and Muhoho
Kenyatta (born 1964). Mama Ngina lives quietly as a wealthy
widow in Kenya.
Uhuru Kenyatta, Mzee Kenyatta's political heir,
unsuccessfully vied for the Kenyan presidency as President Moi's
preferred successor in 2002 and is today the Kenyan Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister for Finance. Muhoho Kenyatta runs his
mother's vast family business but lives out of the public
Kenyatta was the uncle of
Ngethe Njoroge, Kenya's first representative to the United
Nations and the great uncle of
Tom Morello, the guitarist for
Rage Against the Machine. His niece, Beth Mugo, married to a
retired ambassador, is an MP and currently serving as Minister
for Public Health.—Wikipedia
* * *
Kwame Nkrumah (21
September 1909 - 27 April 1972) was the leader of
Ghana and its predecessor state, the
Gold Coast, from 1952 to 1966. Overseeing the nation's
independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Nkrumah was the
President of Ghana and the first
Prime Minister of Ghana. An influential 20th century
Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the
Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the
Lenin Peace Prize in 1963. . . . Nkrumah's advocacy of
industrial development at any cost, with help of longtime friend
and Minister of Finance,
Komla Agbeli Gbedema, led to the construction of a
hydroelectric power plant, the
Akosombo Dam on the
Volta River in eastern Ghana.
Kaiser Aluminum agreed to build the dam for Nkrumah, but
restricted what could be produced using the power generated.
Nkrumah borrowed money to build the dam, and placed Ghana in
debt. To finance the debt, he raised taxes on the cocoa farmers
in the south. This accentuated regional differences and
jealousy. The dam was completed and opened by Nkrumah amidst
world publicity on 22 January 1966. Nkrumah appeared to be at
the zenith of his power, but the end of his regime was only days
Nkrumah wanted Ghana to
have modern armed forces, so he acquired aircraft and ships, and
introduced conscription.He also gave military support to those
Smith administration in
Zimbabwe, then called
Rhodesia. In February 1966, while Nkrumah was on a state
North Vietnam and
China, his government was overthrown in a military
coup led by
Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka and the
National Liberation Council. Several commentators, such as
John Stockwell, have claimed the coup received support from
CIA. . . .
Nkrumah never returned to
Ghana, but he continued to push for his vision of African
unity. He lived in exile in
Guinea, as the guest of President
Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the
country. He read, wrote, corresponded, gardened, and entertained
guests. Despite retirement from public office, he was still
frightened of western intelligence agencies. When his cook died,
he feared that someone would poison him, and began hoarding food
in his room. He suspected that foreign agents were going through
his mail, and lived in constant fear of abduction and
assassination. In failing health, he flew to
Romania, for medical treatment in August 1971. He died of
skin cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62.—Wikipedia
Marcus Garvey "Africa For The Africans" /
Look For Me in The Whirlwind
Marucs Garvey Speech
* * *
Race for the
AU Chair: Africa’s Soul Searching Moment, Unique In
History—4 February 2012—Kwame Nkrumah wrote in
his book, Africa Must Unite!, as far back as
1960: “We in Africa who are pressing now for unity
are deeply conscious of the validity of our purpose.
We need the strength of our combined numbers and
resources to protect ourselves from the very
positive dangers of returning to colonialism in
disguised forms. We need it to combat the entrenched
forces dividing our continent and still holding back
millions of our brothers. We need it to secure total
African liberation. We need it to carry forward our
construction of a socio-economic system that will
support the great mass of our steadily rising
population at levels of life which will compare with
those in the most advanced countries.”
Just a year
after that, he published another book, I Speak of
Freedom, 1961, in which he laboured the point:
“Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become
one of the greatest forces for good in the world. I
believe strongly and sincerely that with the
deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect
for human lives, the intense humanity that is our
heritage, the African race, united under one federal
government, will emerge not as just another world
bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a
Great Power whose greatness is indestructible
because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion,
nor won at the expense of others, but founded on
hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of
For many a
doubting Thomas, all they need to do to understand
what has been going on with our African leaders, is
to read from “Declassified National Security Council
and Central Intelligence Agency documents”, which
“provide compelling, new evidence of United States
government involvement in the 1966 overthrow of
Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah.” In one of these
declassified documents, March 12, 1966 (Document
260), Robert W. Komer, according to Paul Lee, “first
joined the White House as a member of President
Kennedy’s NSC staff,” “had worked as a CIA analyst
for 15 years”, and “now acting special assistant for
national security affairs, wrote a congratulatory
assessment to the President on March 12, 1966
(Document 260). His assessment of Nkrumah and his
successors was telling:
‘The coup in
Ghana,’ he crowed, ‘is another example of a
fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to
undermine our interests than any other black
African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist
leanings, the new military regime is almost
“Where the more
subtle methods of economic pressure and political
subversion have failed to achieve the desired
result,” Nkrumah wrote from exile in Guinea three
years later, “there has been resort to violence in
order to promote a change of regime and prepare the
way for the establishment of a puppet government.”
Today, what is
as stake, is not just a matter of systematically
replacing a revolutionary anti-imperialist regime
with a puppet government, they want to swallow up
the entire continent with one full sweep. Once more,
another undeclared war between China and Africa
seems to top the priorities of those who pretend to
be our friends and stab us in the back, as quickly
as they can, in order to perpetuate and maintain
what they call “Full Spectrum Dominance”.—PanAfricanistInternational
* * *
* * * * *
Aké: The Years of Childhood
Aké: The Years of Childhood is a
memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and
lyrical account of one boy's attempt to
grasp the often irrational and hypocritical
world of adults that equally repels and
seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief
anecdotes into history lessons,
conversations into morality plays, memories
into awakenings. Various cultures,
religions, and languages mingled freely in
the Aké of his youth, fostering endless
contradictions and personalized hybrids,
particularly when it comes to religion.
Christian teachings, the wisdom of the
ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of
alternately terrify and inspire him
carried equal metaphysical weight.
Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that
"God had a habit of either not answering
one's prayers at all, or answering them in a
way that was not straightforward."
In writing from a child's perspective,
Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and
unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult
snares of cynicism and intolerance. His
stinging indictment of colonialism takes on
added power owing to the elegance of his
* * * *
The Last Holiday: A Memoir
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.
Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a
brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a
biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead
to newspapers getting things wrong.
Jamie Byng, Guardian
Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio) / Gil Scott-Heron
& His Music Gil Scott
Heron Blue Collar
Remember Gil Scott- Heron
* * * * *
The Warmth of Other Suns
The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
By Isabel Wilkerson
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's
wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in
1937, after her cousin was falsely accused
of stealing a white man's turkeys and was
almost beaten to death. In 1945, George
Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled
Florida for Harlem after learning of the
grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie
party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing
Foster made his trek from Louisiana to
California in 1953, embittered by "the
absurdity that he was doing surgery for the
United States Army and couldn't operate in
his own home town." Anchored to these three
stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist
Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively
researched study of the "great migration,"
the exodus of six million black Southerners
out of the terror of Jim Crow to an
"uncertain existence" in the North and
Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological
and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling,
and Pershing settling in new lands, building
anew, and often finding that they have not
left racism behind. The drama, poignancy,
and romance of a classic immigrant saga
pervade this book, hold the reader in its
grasp, and resonate long after the reading
* * * * *
My First Coup d'Etat
And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa
Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the
late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial
hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of
stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover.
Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent
country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama,
the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in
his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding
school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house
In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent
history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his
uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the
villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about
confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening. As he
writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always
been . . . in the story of its people, the
paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.”
The book draws to a close as the author’s
professional life begins. —Publishers
* * * * *
Origins of Pan-Africanism
Henry Sylvester Williams, Africa, and
the African Diaspora
By Marika Sherwood
This 2012 book recounts the life story
of the pioneering Henry Sylvester
Williams, an unknown Trinidadian son of
an immigrant carpenter in the late-19th
and early 20th century. Williams, then a
student in Britain, organized the
African Association in 1897, and the
first-ever Pan-African Conference in
1900. He is thus the progenitor of the
OAU/AU. Some of those who attended went
on to work in various pan-African
organizations in their homelands. He
became not only a qualified barrister,
but the first Black man admitted to the
Bar in Cape Town, and one of the first
two elected Black borough councilors in
London. These are remarkable
achievements for anyone, especially for
a Black man of working-class origins in
an era of gross racial discrimination
and social class hierarchies. Williams
died in 1911, soon after his return to
his homeland, Trinidad.
* * * * *
Natives of My Person
By George Lamming
Natives of My Person focuses on
slave traders of the sixteenth century.
The novel reconstructs the voyage of the
ship Reconnaissance, which is led by a
character known as the Commandant. To
atone for his past cruelties and
barbarism, the Commandant plans to
establish a Utopian society on the
island of San Cristobal. The enterprise
fails for many reasons: fighting amongst
the crew, loss of interest, greed, and
an inability to erase the past. The
novel argues that an ideal society
cannot be built by those who have
committed moral atrocities and
unnecessary bloodshed in their past. . .
has a historical setting and deals with
the voyage of the Reconnaissance, a
vessel ostensibly engaged in the slave
trade, a specific historical phenomenon,
it is only partly accurate to describe
it as a work of historical realism. Its
realist component is not to be found in
its fidelity to period costume, living
conditions, or similar revealing detail.
Instead of the veneer of verisimilitude
that such usages provide, the novel
locates its realism in the way in which
it elaborately recapitulates an outlook.
Natives of My Person
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
13 August 2012