African Students Association of America and Canada
Nkrumah became an active member and later the President of the African Students association of America and Canada while at the University of Pennsylvania. When he first arrived it was not a very strong association but he helped organise it and expanded the membership to include not only students, but also other Africans engaged in different kinds of occupations. With the help of fellow Students such as Ako Adjei and Jones Quartey, he started the Association’s official newspaper, ‘The African Interpreter’, through which they tried to revive a spirit of nationalism. The idea of West African Unity soon became the accepted philosophy of the organisation and the idea was that when students returned to their countries, they should work towards unity in West Africa.
West African Students Union
Barely a few weeks after his arrival in London, Nkrumah became a member of the West African Students Union of which he later became vice president. The Union helped new students especially in finding accommodation and in registering at various inns of courts or colleges and also helped students who found themselves in financial difficulties. They also made agitations for better conditions in West Africa through petitions to the colonial office.
Pan African Movement
When Nkrumah arrived in London form New York, one of his first friends was George Padmore, a West Indian Journalist who lived in London. His articles had attracted Nkrumah’s interest while he was in the US and Nkrumah had written to him asking if they could meet when he arrived in London. About a month after his arrival, together with Goerge Padmore, TR Makonnen and Peter Abrahams, he was busy making preparations for the Fifth Pan African Congress to be held in Manchester in October that year.
The congress, co-chaired by Dr. WEB Dubois, and Dr. Peter Milliard turned out to be a huge success. Unlike previous conferences which had involved mainly middle-class intellectuals and bourgeois Negro reformists, this congress was attended by black people from all walks of life; workers, farmers, trade unionists, co-operative societies and students. Important declarations were made on the determination of colonial peoples to be free. It was this congress that provided the outlet for African nationalism and brought about the awakening of African political consciousness.
‘The Circle’ was a ‘secret society started by Nkrumah as one of the many student groups organised by students who supported the West African National Secretariat. Members of such groups would meet for discussions at the headquarters. It had as its motto Service, Sacrifice and Suffering and saw itself as the vanguard group in the struggle for West African Unity and independence and a Union of African Socialist Republics. Membership was only open to those who were believed or known to be genuinely working for West African unity and the destruction of colonialism.
Among other things members had to swear to serve, sacrifice, and suffer anything for the cause for which the circle stood, accept the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah and fast on the 21st of each month from sunrise to sunset.
Members trained themselves to be able to commence revolutionary work in any part of the African continent. They were like a special service group in the secretariat and directed the programmes and activities of the national headquarters and took the lead in calling meetings and conferences and arranging lectures and discussions.
The Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
Phi Beta Sigma was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on January 9, 1914, by three young African-American male students; A. Langston Taylor, Leonard F. Morse, and Charles I. Brown. It is a predominantly African-American fraternity which wanted to organize a Greek letter fraternity that would exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship, and service. When Nkrumah entered Lincoln University in 1939, he pledged the Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. To become a member, Nkrumah had to go through the gruesome ceremony involving being stripped naked in front of everyone, chased, captured and beaten and pushed blindfolded through a hedge. Fraternity still exists today and its motto is ‘culture for service and service for humanity’.