Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Wed, 12.18.1895

Joseph Danquah, Politician and Lawyer born

Joseph Danquah

*Joseph Danquah was born on this date in 1895. He was an African politician, scholar, lawyer, and statesman.

He was a politician in pre- and post-colonial Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, and gave Ghana its current name. Joseph Kwame Kyeretwie Boakye Danquah was born in Bepong in Kwahu in the Eastern Region of Ghana. He was from the royal family of Ofori Panin Fie, once the rulers of the Akyem states, and one of the most influential families in Ghanaian politics. His elder brother was Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, and his son was actor Paul Danquah. At six, Danquah began schooling at the Basel Mission School at Kyebi. He attended the Basel Mission Senior School at Begoro.

In 1912, he worked as a clerk as a barrister-at-law in Accra, which aroused his interest in law. In 1914, Danquah became a clerk at the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast. Danquah was the assistant secretary of the Conference of Paramount Chiefs of the Eastern Province. He was sent to Britain in 1921 to read law. In 1922, he entered the University College of London as a philosophy student. He earned his B.A. in 1925, winning a Philosophy of Mind and Logic scholarship. He then earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in two years with a thesis entitled "The Moral End as Moral Excellence."

He became the first West African to obtain the Doctor of Philosophy degree from a British university. While he worked on his thesis, he passed the Bar in 1926. During his student days, he had two sons and two daughters by two women. In London, Danquah was the editor of the West African Students' Union (WASU) magazine and the Union's President. Danquah began private legal practice in Ghana in 1927. In 1929 he, helped J. E. Casely Hayford found the Gold Coast Youth Conference (GCYC). 

In 1931, Danquah established The Times of West Africa, the first daily newspaper in Ghana, published between 1931 and 1935. A column called "Women's Corner" was written by Mabel Dove, who became Danquah's first wife in 1933. Danquah later married Elizabeth Vardon. In 1935, he became an executive member of the International African Friends of Ethiopia, a Pan-Africanist organization based in London. Danquah became a member of the Legislative Council in 1946 and actively pursued independence legislation for his country.

In 1947, he helped to find the pro-independence United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) as a combination of chiefs, academics, and lawyers, including George Alfred Grant, Robert Benjamin Blay, R. A. Awoonor-Williams, Edward Akufo-Addo, and Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey. Kwame Nkrumah became the new party's general secretary.  In 1948, following a boycott of European imports and rioting in Accra, Danquah was one of "the big six" who were detained for a month by the colonial authorities. Danquah's historical research led him to agree with Nkrumah's proposition that on independence, the Gold Coast would be renamed Ghana after the early African empire of that name.

However, they disagreed over the direction of the independence movement and parted ways after two years. Nkrumah eventually became the first president of independent Ghana. He was a presidential candidate against Nkrumah in April 1960 and lost. On October 3, 1961, Danquah was arrested under the Preventive Detention Act on the grounds of involvement with alleged plans to subvert the C.P.P. government. He was released on June 22, 1962. He became President of the Ghana Bar Association. Danquah was again arrested in January 1964 for allegedly being implicated in a plot against the President.

He suffered a heart attack and died while in detention at Nsawam Medium Prison on February 4, 1965. After the overthrow of the C.P.P. government in February 1966 by the National Liberation Council (N.L.C.), Danquah had a national funeral.

The J. B. Danquah Memorial Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1968. The Danquah Institute, a commemoration of his work, promotes his ideas posthumously. Danquah Circle, a roundabout in Accra, was also named after him.

To become a Political Scientist
To Become a Lawyer

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

I placed a flower on your grave today. I knew you were not there— but far away A fleecy white cloud floated Blotting out a million miles of mystery and blue. Perhaps in... TO A PAL by A. V. Hall.
Read More