Sixty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. made a transformative visit to the Gold Coast in West Africa, then a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea. During his first trip abroad, King participated in the celebration of the first African nation, Ghana, and the newly formed country’s independence from British rule.
“Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first, that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it,” King stated upon his return to the United States in his 1957 “The Birth of a New Nation” sermon at Alabama’s historical Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
“And if Nkrumah and the people of the Gold Coast had not stood up persistently, revolting against the system, it would still be a colony of the British Empire. Freedom is never given to anybody. For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.”
Invited by Ghana’s newly elected Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah, King’s trip was coordinated by small group of African Americans including West Chester born and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania alum, Bayard Rustin.
For King, his visit to Ghana proved to be pivotal as his worldview evolved. Continue reading