When Queen Elizabeth II danced with President Kwame Nkrumah (photos)

“This image seems mundane today but in this context, it was extremely avant-garde. It was a white woman dancing with a Black man, it was the ruler of an empire dancing with a subject, as he was then considered, even if he is also the father of pan-Africanism and Ghanaian independence” – Meriem Amellal Lalmas

Queen Elizabeth II visited Ghana at the tail end of 1961. She was in Ghana between November 9 to 20 visiting President Kwame Nkrumah, the father of pan Africanism, who was the head of State of Ghana Republic. Ghana a former colony of Britain, gained her independence from Britain in 1958.

In that period, at the height of cold war, President Nkrumah was cozying to Soviet bloc. The western democracy was not comfortable on his seeking of the ties with the eastern bloc. They perceived that Nkrumah was heading towards socialism and the implication was that he might reject the West for East amity. That he may even abandon the emerging Commonwealth of Nations.

On this development, Queen Elizabeth was planning his visit to Ghana. “Winston Churchill himself, a mentor to Elizabeth II, even called the prime minister at the time, Harold Macmillan, and asked him to convince the Queen not to visit the country that had declared its independence in 1957.

The sovereign refused to cancel the visit. She knew her visit was eagerly awaited. The upcoming birth of her third child, Andrew, had already forced her to cancel the trip in 1959 and Nkrumah had taken it badly. To ease tensions, the royal family had invited him to Balmoral, where the head of state had spent a few days with the Queen. Later, Prince Philip travelled to Ghana and promised an upcoming visit from his wife.”

“It was during a ball organised in her honour that she managed to turn the tide of public opinion: in front of the world’s cameras, she danced with the president of Ghana. The Queen’s visit did not prevent Nkrumah from getting closer to the Soviet bloc, but it did stop Ghana breaking away from the Commonwealth.”


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