Did you know that the name Ghana, which we proudly bear today, has a rich and fascinating history? Before we became Ghana, our beloved country was known as Gold Coast.
But have you ever wondered how this name came about? Well, let’s dive into the story of our country’s name and take a journey through time.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on the land in the 15th century, and upon their arrival, they discovered so much gold between the rivers Ankobra and the Volta that they named the area “da Mina,” meaning “The Mine.” This was the beginning of the Gold Coast.
But how did the Gold Coast become Ghana? The Republic of Ghana was named after the medieval West African Ghana Empire.
This empire, also known as Wagadou or Awkar, was a West African empire based in the modern-day southeast of Mauritania and western Mali that existed from approximately 300 to 1100 CE. The empire was called the Ghana Empire after the title of its Emperor, Ghana.
The empire had significant power, wealth, and territory, controlling territories in the area of the Sénégal River and east towards the Niger rivers, in modern-day Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali.
Although the ancient Ghana Empire was approximately 500 miles north and west of the modern state of Ghana, the people of the Gold Coast were believed to have historical ties to Ghana.
The first person to suggest this was Rev. J. B. Anaman in his book, The Gold Coast Guide, published in 1895. Lady Luggard, wife of the infamous Lord Luggard, also included the stories of the empires of Mali and Songhai in her book, “A Tropical Dependency,” which was used in Achimota in the 1920s.
At the time of his death, James Kwegir Aggrey was working on a major history thesis that would establish the historical connections between the people of the Gold Coast and Mali, Songhai, Egypt, and Abyssinia. As a result of his death, this was not published. Rev. W. T. Balmer, who used to teach at Mfantsipim, also wrote about this connection to the Ghana empire in 1926.
These findings aroused the interest of J. B. Danquah, who published his book, Akim-Abuakwa Handbook, in 1928, proposing that the territory should be called “Akanln” instead of Gold Coast. However, this drew sharp criticism, and he then suggested “Akan-Ga” as a replacement.
The newspaper, West Africa, criticized this, saying, “it appears Dr. Danquah’s view of nationhood does not extend to the non-Akan population of the Northern Territories.” Upon further deliberations, Danquah then suggested “New Ghana.”
Following the riots in 1948, some students and teachers from Mfantsipim and St. Augustine’s College protested for their release following the arrest of the UGCC leaders. Kwame Nkrumah founded Ghana National College for these students after dismissing them. At independence in 1957, the name Ghana was eventually adopted, and to quote Nkrumah, “we take pride in the name, not out of romanticism but as an inspiration for the future.” This is how we became Ghanaians instead of Gold Coasters.
So there you have it, the fascinating story of how our country came to be called Ghana. It is a testament to our rich history and our connection to the ancient Ghana Empire.