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Ghana, nation in West Africa, a former British colony known as the Gold Coast until 1957. That year Ghana became the first state in sub-Saharan Africa to gain political independence from European colonial rule. Drawing on tradition, the new state took its name from that of the medieval empire of Ghana, on the upper Niger River, several hundred miles to the northwest of modern Ghana. Following independence, Ghana assumed the leadership role in the African continent’s struggle for national liberation.

The people of this densely populated country belong to more than 100 different ethnic groups, but Ghana has largely been spared the ethnic conflict that has torn apart many other African countries. The capital city of Accra is the largest city in the country. English is the official language of the country, but most Ghanaians also speak at least one African language.

Ghana has one of the strongest economies in West Africa, yet the country’s economic base continues to be agriculture and the people remain poor. Gold mining, the production of cacao (used to make chocolate), and tourism are the main sources of revenue. Ghana was known as a source of gold hundreds of years ago. European explorers who arrived in search of gold in the 1400s and 1500s first named the region the Gold Coast.

A series of military coups and severe economic problems plagued Ghana from the late 1960s into the 1980s. However, Ghana reemerged in the 1990s as a democracy and a leading player in African affairs. In 1997 Kofi Annan, a diplomat from Ghana, became secretary-general of the United Nations.


For younger readers

Boateng, Faustine Ama. Asante. Rosen, 1997. For readers in grades 5 to 7.

Brace, Steve. Ghana. Thomson Learning, 1995. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

McKissack, Patricia, and Frederick McKissack. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. Holt, 1994. For middle school and high school readers.


Allman, Jean Marie. The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana. University of Wisconsin Press, 1993. Examination of Ghana's current political strife as an extension of its past.

Assimeng, J. Max, ed. Traditional Life, Culture and Literature in Ghana. Conch, 1976. Collection of essays by Ghanaians.

Davidson, Basil. Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah. Westview, 1989. On the first prime minister and president of Ghana.

Edgerton, Robert B. The Fall of the Asante Empire: The Hundred Year War for Africa's Gold Coast. Free Press, 1995. Travelers narratives, Asante oral histories, and British eyewitness accounts round out this military history of the Asante resistance to British rule.

Herbst, Jeffrey Ira. The Politics of Reform in Ghana, 1982-1991. University of California Press, 1993.

Nugent, Paul. Big Men, Small Boys, and Politics in Ghana: Power, Ideology, and the Burden of History. Pinter, 1995. The rise of President Jerry Rawlings and the Provisional National Defence Council, and prospects for the future.


Owusu-Ansah, David, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of History, James Madison University. Co-author of Historical Dictionary of Ghana and author of Islamic Talismanic Tradition in Nineteenth-Century Asante.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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