Kwame Nkrumah’ was born at a time when records of dates of birth were largely not kept in the Gold Coast. As he recounted in his autobiography:
The only certain facts of my birth appear to be that I was born in the village of Nkroful in Nzima around mid-day on a Saturday in mid-September…According to my mother, forty-five Kuntums (the traditional festival of Nzima) have taken place since I was born, which makes the year of my birth 1912. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Priest who later baptized me recorded my birth date as 21st September, 1909. Although this was a mere guess on his part, I have always used this date on official documents, not so much because I believed in its accuracy, but in so far as officialdom was concerned, it was the line of least resistance...I [later] came to realize how near the mark [the actual date of my birth] this guess must have been.
He was born into the Nzima tribe in Nkroful; a small village on the south western border of the then Gold Coast. Nkrumah was known as Francis Nwai-Kofi (or Nyakofi) Nkrumah until 1945 when he changed his name to Kwame Nkrumah. When he was about three years old, Nkrumah and his mother left Nkroful to join his father in Half- Assini – a town about fifty miles from Nkroful. Being his mother’s only child, he was very close to her and she hardly denied him anything. Due to his poor eating habits, she would sometimes leave roasted plantain under his pillow in case he woke up hungry in the middle of the night.
For pastime, Nkrumah played with his half siblings and other children in the sea, the lagoon or the forest. He also enjoyed spending time alone in the forest, observing animals and birds. He had a huge longing for supernatural things and took his Catholic faith very seriously.
Kwame Nkrumah’s father, Opanyin Kofi Nwiana Ngolomah was from the Asona clan of the Akan Tribe. A goldsmith by practice, he was a man of strong character, extremely kind, and proud of his children. He was a polygamist and had several wives and children besides Nkrumah. Ngolomah died in 1927, the year Nkrumah entered the Accra Teacher’s Training College.
His mother was called Madam Elizabeth Nyaniba and came from the same clan as her husband. She was a farmer and petty trader who allowed her son a lot of freedom but at the same time, kept a very close eye on him. The relationship between Nkrumah and his mother was a very close one. She died on 21st October 1977, not long after Nkrumah’s body was brought back to Ghana for burial.
Though an only child to his parents, Nkrumah had several half brothers and sisters with whom he grew up. He recalled that his half siblings always treated him with ‘kindness and consideration’ as if he was something “sacred”.
Marriage and children
On 31st December 1957, in a very simple civil ceremony held at the gardens of the Christianborg castle, Fathia and Kwame Nkrumah became husband and wife a few hours after she landed in Accra from Egypt. Nkrumah’s marriage to Fathia was more of a political union than a romantic one which was meant to link North Africa and the rest of the continent.
It was a marriage that took many people by surprise. Many Ghanaians, including Nkrumah’s secretary only found out about the marriage following an announcement on radio. Also, people did not understand why Nkrumah had chosen to marry a ‘white’ woman. The fact that she was ‘African’ would take a while to sink in.
The Western powers were also baffled as they tried to figure out what the significance of this marriage could be. So who exactly was this Egyptian woman who had had found her way into Ghana as the first lady of the first independent African nation and whose marriage to Nkrumah was sending so many shock waves around the globe?
Fathia was born Fathia Halim Roizah Rizk and brought up in Zeitoun – Egypt. She was the third daughter of a civil servant and a small but strong woman who raised her children single-handedly after her husband's untimely death. After completing her secondary education, she worked as a teacher in her school, Notre Dame des Apôtres. She did not enjoy teaching very much, and later took a job in a bank. It was while working in the bank that Nkrumah’s marriage proposal came.
She was summoned by President Nasser of Egypt, who asked if she was sure that she wanted to accept Nkrumah's proposal of marriage. He explained to her that marrying a head of state of the first African country to achieve independence from British rule, entailed enormous duties and responsibilities, sacrifices and potential risks .But Fathia had already made up her mind. She had read all about Nkrumah and was very impressed.
Her mother was however not happy about her daughter’s marriage to a foreigner, especially since one of Fathia’s siblings had already left the country with his English bride. She refused to speak to her daughter or bless the marriage even though Fathia tried to explain to her that Nkrumah was no ordinary man.
As a bride who could not speak English with a groom who could speak neither Arabic nor French, her first few months in Ghana were frustrating ones. She had to learn fast, and soon could deliver speeches in English. She fitted quite well into her role as a first lady and came to be greatly loved by Ghanaians. She played hostess to great leaders like Charles de Gaulle, Haile Sellassie, Chou En-Lai Nikita Khrushchev and Prince Philip.
After the coup that ousted Nkrumah’s government in 1966, Fathia moved to Egypt with her children and there brought them up on her own. In 1975. Col. Acheampong’s government invited her back to settle in Ghana but she returned to Egypt in the early 1980s.
Fathia Nkrumah died on May 31 2007 and is buried at the Nkrumah Mausoleum, next to her husband.
Children Professor Francis Nkrumah
Francis Kwesi Nkrumah is the eldest son of Kwame Nkrumah. He taught medicine at the University of Ghana Medical school, Department of Child Health from 1969 to 1980 when he became the chairman of the Department. From 1983 to 1990, he became the Head of the Paediatrics Department of Faculty of Medicine, University of Zimbabwe. Between 1990 and 1998, he was the director of the Nugochi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
Mr Gamal Nkrumah
Gamal Gorkeh Nkrumah was born in Accra in 1959. He is the second of Kwame Nkrumah’s sons but the oldest of Fathia’s children. He is a journalist, a political analyst and commentator, a Pan-Africanist and an editor of Al Ahram Weekly newspaper in Egypt. He received his doctorate in political science from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and is a well known figure in the academic circles.
Samia Nkrumah Samia Yaba Christina Nkrumah was born on 23 June 1960 in Aburi in the eastern region of Ghana. The second of Fathia and Nkrumah’s children, she was only six years old when the coup occurred and forced her to move to Egypt with her mother and siblings. She returned to Ghana in 1975 when the government of General Acheampong invited her family back to live in Ghana. She attended Achimota School for a while but returned to Egypt in the early 1980s.
She holds a Masters degree in Area Studies (Middle East), Comparative Politics of Contemporary Middle East; Social and Political Dimensions in Modern Arabic Literature, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, 1993 and a Bachelor Arabic Studies, SOAS, 1991.
Samia is a Freelance Journalist and Member of Parliament for the Jomoro Constituency, a seat she won on the ticket of the Convention People’s Party, (CPP), the party founded by her father in 1949. She is the current Chairperson of the CCP. She is one of the founders of Africa Must Unite, an organization aimed at promoting Kwame Nkrumah's vision and political culture. She is married to Michele Melega, an Italian-Danish and they have an eleven year old son, Kwame.
Sekou Nkrumah is the youngest of Kwame Nkrumah’s children. He holds a doctorate in African Literature from the University of Bucharest, Romania. He was formerly the national coordinator of the National Youth Council.