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Hidden Heroes and Unsung Battles: The Untold Stories of Ghana’s Independence

Although the “Big Six” with Ghana’s first Prime Minister, Dr Kwame Nkrumah have been widely praised for leading Ghana’s independence fight, it is important to highlight the significant and indispensable roles certain individuals and groups have also played.

Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, who was Governor of the Gold Coast from 1949 to 1957 once said, “I never realized what a prolonged battle I would have with the politicians, chiefs and people of the Gold Coast in order to give them the independence for which they have been clamouring all these years. Now they are going to have it whether they like it or not”. Indeed, these words point to the fact that the struggles and screams of diverse individuals and groups contributed immensely to the struggle for Ghana’s independence.

Although the “Big Six” with Ghana’s first Prime Minister, Dr Kwame Nkrumah have been widely praised for leading Ghana’s independence fight, it is important to highlight the significant and indispensable roles certain individuals and groups have also played. There is no arguing the fact that the “Big Six” could not have won Ghana’s independence by themselves.

Thus, as we celebrate Ghana month and independence, it is important to highlight the invaluable contributions these hidden heroes and heroines played in the struggle and sing praises for their unsung battles.

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First, we have Tetteh Quarshie, a farmer from Akuapem who brought cocoa seeds from Fernando Po in 1878 to Ghana. This birthed Ghana’s cocoa industry which became and still remains to this day a significant source of revenue for the country and has been instrumental in the country’s economic development. Although Tetteh Quarshie has been well-credited for bringing cocoa to Ghana and thus birthing the country’s cocoa industry. The fact that this single act made Ghana the leading producer and exporter of Cocoa in the world and contributed to our economic well-being post-independence has not been given the recognition it deserves, and it is important we do so as we celebrate this year’s edition of the Ghana month.

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Also, does the name Yaa Asantewaa ring a bell? She was the queen mother in the Ashanti Kingdom who in 1900, led the Ashanti kingdom to war against British colonizers in Ghana. From her brave act, the name “Yaa Asantewaa” has become synonymous with bravery. Although the Yaa Asantewaa war was lost, this event has been recorded in the annals of history and inspired Ghanaians, especially women through time to rise to the occasion and fight for independence and other worthy causes.

READ ALSO: What Exactly Did Kwame Nkrumah Say on the 6th of March 1957? Here’s the Full Speech

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Again, there is Rebecca Naa Dedei Aryeetey popularly referred to as “Dedei Ashikishan”. Rebecca was a businesswoman who owned a large flour retail business in Accra. She provided funds and campaigned for Dr. Nkrumah to win the Accra-Central parliamentary seat. Today, her image has been imprinted on the “Fifty Ghana Cedi” coin to honour her contributions to the struggle for independence. However, majority of Ghanaians do not know her for her contribution to the struggle for independence.

Other important individuals including writers and intellectuals like Efua Sutherland, Ayi Kwei Armah and Mabel Dove Danqua who used literature and theatre to challenge colonial narratives, celebrate Ghanaian identity, and call on Ghanaians to keep fighting for independence. Their works not only inspired future generations of writers but also contributed to a broader cultural awakening that laid the foundation for Ghana’s post-independence renaissance.

Apart from the individuals above mentioned, various groups also played key roles. Formed in 1897, the Aborigines Rights Protection Society (ARPS) was instrumental in safeguarding the lands of the indigenous people from the colonial Land Bill of 1897. Their successful resistance marked one of the earliest victories against colonial rule. This prevented the colonial masters from taking over our lands as was done in Zimbabwe.

Another such overlooked group is the one that led the 1948 Accra Riots which led to the brutal shooting of three ex-servicemen who dared to demand fair treatment after serving the British in the world war. This significant event was a milestone in the Gold Coast’s struggle for independence as it led to widespread and exacerbated civil unrest, ultimately accelerating political reforms. Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey should forever be remembered for sacrificing their lives to support a noble cause.

Finally, credit should be given to the Ghanaians in general who were alive at that time. In 1950, Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party launched the Positive Action campaign. This non-violent civil disobedience movement involved strikes and protests against the colonial government and led to the eventual attainment of self-governance. The general public who contributed their fair quota by supporting their leaders throughout the struggle for independence also deserve some accolades for their role as some of these individuals lost their lives or ended up behind bars despite their non-violent approach to resisting the oppressor’s rule.

Some scholars argue that certain “heroes” in Ghana’s fight for independence have been relegated to the backstage because of internal divisions and conflicts among some Ghanaian individuals and groups. For instance, it is no secret that the rivalry that reared its ugly head between Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) and other political factions has often overshadowed the contributions of these individuals. Notable among these overlooked figures is Edward Akufo-Addo, a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and later Chief Justice of Ghana, whose commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law played a vital role in shaping the country’s legal system. Nonetheless, we must also note that this is not a basis for discrediting anyone’s efforts since conflicts are a natural consequence of human society interactions. Hence, we should abide by the principle of “substance over form” and credit all who played important roles in the struggle for independence whether they were backstage or at the forefront.

While we do not intend to change the narrative about Ghana’s independence and the key roles played by the well-known “Big Six”, it is important to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” by highlighting the important contributions of these individuals and groups and shed some light on their unsung and not so illuminated battles. Posterity should know this because the struggle for independence was a “together we stand, divided we fall” agenda.” The Gold Coast won its independence to become Ghana because of the cumulative efforts of these hidden heroes and their unsung battles.

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