Padmore, The Missionary. The Opening of The George Padmore Memorial Library
Accra,June 30, 1961
We have met here today to do honour to the memory of George Padmore, by dedicating to him this building and this library. The library has been built in order that the great ideals of Pan Africanism and the noble cause of which George Padmore worked and died may be continued. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should take this action at this particular time. Today, more than ever, we are called upon to come to grips with the challenges of our time, as we enter a decisive phase in the struggle for the total liberation and unity of the African continent. Whilst the struggle for the independence and unity of Africa continues, we are made increasingly aware of the appearance of a new colonialism, the ugliest and vicious form that has yet reared its head, namely, an economic and military colonialism. As we begin to see before us the gradual unfolding and realization of the independence and unity of our African continent, our thoughts turn naturally to George Padmore who in his innermost being was by any reckoning, one of the greatest architects of the African movement.
This library will be known as the "George Padmore Memorial Library." Comrade Padmore’s life was spent in the development of African nationalism. His fertile brain was full of ideas which he assiduously mobilised, through his writings and lectures, for the African cause and, in the supreme humanity.
Burning with missionary zeal, comrade Padmore unflinchingly dedicated himself to the exciting task of African liberation and African unity. I do not intend, on this occasion, to relate at length, how I first came in contact with George Padmore, or to speak of my subsequent personal relationship with him. I have borne testimony to this elsewhere. Suffice it to say that there is not one of us who had the privilege of working with Padmore and sharing his rich mind of thoughts who cannot say with Mark Anthony; "was my friend, faithful and just to me." To me personally, Padmore was more than this. He was a pearl of priceless value, a real and deep-loving elder brother. His loyalty to me was pure, unquestioned and convincing. It was not based on emotionalism: it was genuine spiritual and intellectual loyalty. He was loyal to me because, he believed implicitly that what I stand for is the only thing that can lead to total emancipation of the African continent, and as a West Indian, he also felt that the emancipation of Africa would have its repercussions on every person of African descent throughout the world. No matter what hour of the day or night I called upon him, he was there at my side, ready to help me. So often, he expressed concern over me: “Take care of yourself” he would say. "We need you”. Little did I think that he would leave me alone so soon. Shortly before he died in London, he told friends that he believed I would have to bear the brunt of African freedom fight whether I like it or not.
George Padmore had many sterling qualities. He was a worth patriot, a powerful orator, a skilled politician, able philosopher, journalist and author. He was above all, a great freedom fighter.
As a patriot, Padmore served his race with unparalleled distinction. As a politician, he sought to break the myth of white supremacy and inspired African nationalism which today has become a militant force in the destruction of imperialism and colonialism. As an orator, he was impeccable and unflustered. No degree of heckling could drive him off his point which he always held tenaciously and with consummate courage. As a scholar, he had a broad view of world affairs; as a philosopher, he was not trammeled by his own experiences, but drew extensively and intensively on the experiences of others. His philosophic exposition of Pan Africanism shows his profound depth of thought and rich quality of mind. As a joumalist, he was a prolific writer and a nightmare to the colonialists and imperialists. His trenchant but factual articles exposing the cruel machinations against colonial peoples frequently brought him into bitter conflict with the colonialists and imperialists who loathe and despise the truth. As an author, his impact on the literary world is profound and his works can be found in the homes of every African nationalist. Conscious of the fact that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, George diligently and passionately dedicated his whole life to the noble struggle for African liberation.
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel there could be no more fitting and lasting honour to such an illustrious patriot than the monument such as the one we are about to dedicate to the memory of our beloved comrade.
There is indeed an urgent need for a centre of research into the life of the people of the African continent to which the student can turn for current information and historical narratives in this period of tremendous change and political upheaval. No one appreciated this need for libraries and research better than George Padmore. He was one of the most widely read and most prolific authors on African affairs in this day, and this library, which will bear his name, will provide the raw material of scholarship on the whole of Africa. I am confident that by cooperation with other centres of African studies, this library will play a great part in the increasingly important task of making available I publications from all parts of the world on the current African scene. Books, pamphlets and periodical articles will be indexed and classified, so that the enquirer can have immediate access to the latest information, irrespective of language.
I hope that the George Padmore Memorial Library will eventually issue selected bibliographies on matters of current interest in Africa. There is widespread misunderstanding and ignorance about the newly-developing independent nations of Africa. We are often misrepresented either because our critics do not take the trouble to check the facts or because they rely upon outdated and biased information.
The speed of change, both social and political, in modem Africa is a challenge to those who attempt to interpret its meaning through the printed and spoken word. A research library on African affairs can provide a focal point for African studies where facts, statistics and reliable comments can be readily obtained.
This building is a notable addition to the service of the Ghana Library Board. It is yet another example of how modern materials can be adapted to tropical conditions, with functional arrangement and equipment to meet the most exacting requirements of scholars and research workers. Here will be housed the tools of research that distinguish all great libraries — books, periodicals, government documents, reports, abstracts and indexes, together with the most modem devices for the preservation and storage of knowledge — microfilm and photocopying equipment. Air-conditioned storage has been provided in the basement for large numbers of document and bound periodicals, thus freeing the shelves of the main library for the most current and up-to date material, likely to interest the user. I consider that this building makes a significant contribution to library planning.
A good national library is at once the repository of a nation’s culture and wisdom and an intellectual stimulant. In this library, there shall be no national frontiers: for here shall be stored the cumulative experience, the collective wisdom and knowledge about the entire continent of Africa and the assessment, revaluation and studies of observers from all over the world. Here is an important addition to the specialized services of a future national library in Ghana. Under the agency of the Ghana Library Board will be carried out the tasks of selection, indexing and preservation which underlie the whole process of building up specialized library collection. National bibliographical and documentation services have not yet received serious consideration in Ghana. An annual publication listing all books and government reports published in this country as well as books written about Ghana from other countries would be an invaluable service, and the foundation of the George Padmore Memorial Library should make this possible. We can look forward to the time when a unified bibliography of Africa, outlining the progress and achievements of the African peoples will be made available.
At this point, comrades, I would like to emphasise the desirability of developing in our society, the power of intelligent reading. The progress and prosperity of our society will be largely determined, by the quality of our knowledge.
And here, I wish particularly to call upon the youth and workers of the nation, who have hitherto become victims of passive amusements and purposeless hobbies to desist from unprofitable activities which clog their aspirations and sap their energies to take up reading as their hobby and to make the fullest possible use of this library.
"Reading maketh a full man," says Francis Bacon. No one can deny that purposeful reading as a leisure-time activity, apart from helping the development of individual personality by enlarging his conception of man and matter and promoting his general efficiency by broadening his outlook, gives to the tired mind what rest and sleep give to the tired body. •
Let this library therefore be a shrine of wisdom and patriotism for all African students in this country and elsewhere. May it be an instrument of scholarship for the study of the African people and an inspiration for those who work towards African freedom and unity.
And now, Friends, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have great pleasure, in declaring the George Padmore Memorial Library open.