Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

March 9, 1957

On March 9, 1957, the Pittsburgh Courier celebrated the Ghana’s independence from Britain. “At midnight, March 6, a giant was born,” Courier correspondent Alex Rivera wrote. “It was the first of a new nation—Ghana—formerly known as the Gold Coast, a British West African colony. For weeks people from all parts of the world have come here to be present at the birth of this new child into the family of free nations. Precisely at the stroke of 12 midnight the Union Jack was lowered and the red, green and gold flag of Ghana was raised” (click to view PDF of story).

Ghana and the country’s Prime Minister Dr. Kwame Nkrumah captured the imaginations of black people around the world and received extensive coverage in the black press. In addition to the front-page story (“Nation’s Cheer Africa’s Ghana”), the March 9, 1957 issue of the Courier included an advertisement of commemorative postage stamps (“For yourself and your celebrate Ghana Independence”) and a 32-page Ghana Salute Supplement. You can view this supplement as a PDF here: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Next to a picture of Prime Minister Nkrumah, a Courier editorial made the case for what Ghana’s independence meant to African Americans:
The significance [of Ghana] to American Negroes is more than the extension of a greeting or the hand of welcome. This is because the ancient empire of Ghana was the land of the forefathers of most American Negroes. Traced through centuries, the majority of American Negroes are Ghanaians whose cultural roots have been destroyed, a new people who have lost touch with their original culture and civilization and have failed of full acceptance in the new society where they find themselves. Are American Negroes an inferior people? Can they meet the full challenge of modern Western civilization? We American Negroes look to Ghana to furnish the answers to these questions.

Both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Nation of Islam ran advertisements in the Courier celebrating Ghana.

African Americans were not the only people who greeted Ghana’s independence with excitement. The last page of the Courier's Ghana supplement note that “the life-blood of the new nation of Ghana is its exports. Leading the field is cocoa, followed by diamonds, gold, manganese ore, bauxite and timber.” The companies that purchased advertising space to celebrate Ghana’s independence saw the tremendous amount of money to be made from the country’s resources. Advertisers included: Mobil, Goodyear, Firestone, Jones & Laughlin Steel, the Association of Cocoa and Chocolate Manufacturers of the United States, and Columbia Southern Chemical Company. In addition to these manufacturing interests, Pan Am airlines and Farrell Steamship Lines saw Ghana opening up new travel routes, and Thomas Nelson & Sons publishers saw an opportunity to market Kwame Nkrumah’s autobiography.

The Courier's Ghana supplement is a fascinating look at the different types of value that were ascribed to Ghana's independence.

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