March 6th, 1957, the Gold Coast gained its independence from Great
Independence Square celebrations - Accra, Ghana
Ghana - Political History
Ghana lies at the heart of a region which has been leading sub-Saharan
African culture since the first millennium BC in metal-working, mining,
sculpture and agriculture.
Modern Ghana takes its name from the ancient kingdom of Ghana, some 800 km.
(500 miles) to the north of present day Accra, which flourished up to the
eleventh century AD. One of the great sudanic states which dominate African
history, the kingdom of Ghana controlled the gold trade between the mining
areas to the south and the Saharan trade routes to the north. Ancient Ghana
was also the focus for the export trade in Saharan copper and salt.
The coming of Europeans altered the trading patterns, and the focus of
economic power shifted to the West African coastline. The Portuguese came
first, seeking the source of the African gold. It lay too far inland for
them to reach; but on the Gold Coast they found a region where gold could be
obtained, exported along established trade paths from the interior. Their
fort at Elmina (the mine) was the first in a series of forts along the
Gold Coast designed to repel the other European seafarers who followed in
their wake, all struggling for their share of the profitable Gold Coast
In due course, however, slaves replaced gold as the most lucrative trade
along the coast, with the European slave buyers using the forts and
adjoining buildings for their own accommodation and protection, as well as
for storing the goods, mainly guns and gunpowder, which they would barter
for slaves. Some of the forts were also used for keeping newly acquired
slaves pending the arrival of the ships sent to collect them.
But while Europeans quarrelled over access to the coastal trade, and despite
the appalling depredations of the slave traders, which left whole regions
destroyed and depopulated, the shape of modern Ghana was being laid down. At
the end of the 17th