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Ghana’s role in honouring a US civil rights hero

by Lester Blair
WEB Du Bois pictured in 1918
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Elizabeth Ohene examines the plans to construct a Ghanaian state-of-the art complex to honor William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (US pioneering civil rights activist).

After Ghana’s independence in 1957, a group of radical African-American artists and intellectuals moved to Ghana and helped to create the energizing atmosphere.

WEB du Bois was the prominent African-American scholar, activist and writer. He is probably the most well-known figure of the group of African diasporans that came to this area.

He was the first African American to receive a doctorate at Harvard University in 1895.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, he was one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP).

He was regarded by most Africans to be the father of modern pan-Africanism.

He was a key figure in the establishment of the Pan-African Congresses during the 1900s. His advocacy for the end to colonialism also made him an inspiration to many African leaders.

Du Bois, who was then 93, had already become frail and sick by the time he came to Ghana on the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah.

He was supposed to be the one who started Encyclopaedia Africana. But it quickly became apparent that time was against him.

He did however find peace and received the respect that America denied throughout his entire life.

Shirley Graham Du Bois was his spouse. They were granted a seven-room, government-owned house on Accra’s capital. It had four rooms and was situated on an acre.

Du Bois decorated their home with Busts of Chairman Mao, Lenin and Karl Marx in order to establish the atmosphere for conversation.

Locals called the diasporan intellectuals “Afros”, because they kept out of sometimes violent internal ideologic disputes.

Some names are still memorable: Maya Angelou and George Padmore, which is why Accra has a library dedicated to him.

The story will have a wonderful symmetry when No 21 First Circular Road (the current Du Bois Memorial Centre, Accra) becomes a destination of international standard for historians and heritage [email protected]

WEB Du Bois, 1911 - image has been digitally colorised using a modern process


Ich habe zurückgekehrt, damit meine remains mit dem dust of the forefathers mingling”

WEB Du Bois – How to Become a Ghanaian Citizen

Recently, the government of Ghana signed in New York an agreement with Du Bois Foundation to make it “a vibrant cultural and research center”.

This building has become the hub of African diaspora activity. It hosts the Emancipation Day wreath laying and annual Nkrumah-Du Bois-Padmore Memorial lecture. In addition, it houses the offices of the African-American Association of Ghana as well as the Diaspora African Forum.

This market attracts tourists from Ghana who want to pay tribute. It is also popular as a pop-up marketplace for fashion and artifacts during weekends in Ghana for the growing African diaspora.

Sir David Adjaye is the famed Ghanaian/British architect who will design this multi-million-dollar project.

His designs include Ghana’s National Cathedral which is being constructed at the moment. For the Du Bois connection, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington DC opened in 2016 and was designed by him.

This complex will highlight the fact Ghana has always sought out the African diaspora.

We are familiar with the “Year of Return” campaign and the “Beyond the Return”, which encourage the return of African diaspora to Ghana and the continent in general, for the 2019 year.

This drive is ongoing since independence.

Stevie Wonder and others black Americans continue the tradition more than half century later by making the decision to live and work in Ghana.

The Year of Return was particularly notable for high-profile visitors from black countries to Ghana. These included Idris Elba (Boris Kodjoe), Steve Harvey, Cardi B, Steve Harvey, Cardi B, and Naomi Campbell. It is a path that has been well-travelled.

Du Bois, who died at his Cantoments residence on the 27th August 1963, was one day after Martin Luther King, the US civil rights leader, gave his famous “I Have a Dream” [email protected]

Elizabeth Ohene

E Ohene

According to traditional beliefs, rain signified that Du Bois was welcome among the gods.

Elizabeth Ohene

Ghanaians are known for their funerals. He was even given an entire state funeral.

Reports claim that there was an abrupt and brief rainfall during the ceremony.

Our traditional belief states that the rain was a sign Du Bois had been accepted by the gods.

After the US had refused to renew his passport, he received Ghanaian citizenship five months before his death.

His great-grandfather, who was enslaved on the continent and made him a slave in Africa, had told him that he felt happy to be a citizen South Africa’s first independent nation.

He stated, “I am returning so my remains can mix with the dust from the forefathers.”

My life will continue in the vibrant young stream of Ghanaian culture which elevates African personalities to their rightful place among men. Und I will not have lived or worked in vain.”

We hope the Du Bois Museum Complex will bring back more visitors.

Our goal is to build a museum that reflects the vision and transformative spirit of Du Bois in order to provide a united ancestral home for Africans living abroad.

This historic site will be a historical memorial where people can honor his legacy and connect with their ancestral and cultural roots. It also serves as an inspiration to encourage solidarity among those of African descent.

Ghana hopes that, having served as the principal gateway for most slaves during the transatlantic slavery trade, it will continue to be the primary source of Africans living abroad to reconnect with the continent.

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Source: BBC.com

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