Nkrumah was born on 21 September 1909, in the British colony of Nkroful, on the Gold Coast. Although raised in a small fishing village, Nkrumah was educated in the United States. He received both his Bachelor of Arts (1939) and Bachelor of Theology (1942) from Lincoln University and continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Masters of Philosophy and a Masters of Education (1942, 1943). While in college, Nkrumah became increasingly active in the Pan-African movement, the African Students Association of America, and the West African Students’ Union. In 1945 Nkrumah played a central role in organizing the Fifth Pan-Africanist Congress.
In 1947 Nkrumah’s activism attracted the attention of Ghanaian politician J. B. Danquah, who hired Nkrumah to serve as general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention, an organization pursuing independence for the British colony. However, ideological differences between the two men led Nkrumah to found his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP), in 1949. Nkrumah and the CPP sought self-government through the nonviolent strategy of “positive action.” Much like King’s nonviolent strategies, positive action employed the tactics of protest and strike against colonial administration. In 1951 Nkrumah and the CPP received a decisive majority of votes in Ghana’s first general elections, and on 22 March 1952, Nkrumah became the first prime minister of the Gold Coast. It would be five more years before full independence was realized, and the Gold Coast became the self-governed nation of Ghana.