Fact Check: The True Meaning Of “Ghana”

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If you spent even a little bit of your childhood in Ghana, going to school with other kids, chances are you understand the name “Ghana” to be either one or more of the popular explanations going around.

Contrary to popular belief, “Ghana” is not an acronym or abbreviation of the phrase “God Has Anointed/Appointed Nkrumah Already”. Rather, Ghana used to be the title of the Kings of the ancient Wagadou / Ghana empire which existed around c. 300 to c. 1100.

Ruins of the Old Ghana Empire, Mauritania

The kingdom has been described by archaeologists and historians as a very prosperous nation in the geographical area of present-day southeastern Mauritania and western Mali.

It’s capital was Koumbi Saleh and the common languages in the kingdom were Fulfulde, Soninke, Malinke, and Mande. The dominant religions were African traditional religion and Islam.

Rendition of the court of the Ghana in the old Wagadou empire according to historical accounts

The title “Ghana” is a Soninke word translating to “Strong Warrior King”. Some of the Ghanas that ruled the ancient Wagadou / Ghana empire are Kaya Magan Cissé in the 700s, Majan Dyabe Cissé in the 790s, Ghana Bassi from 1040 to 1062 and Soumaba Cissé from 1203–1235.

The kingdom declined over time and was later conquered by the Sosso. They submitted to the ancient Mali Empire in the early 1200s.

Nkrumah delivering his independence speech, 6th March 1957

During the independence of Gold Coast in 1957, the name Ghana was picked to pay homage to the fallen kingdom and it’s brave and strong kings. It was also to signify the Gold Coast’s strength and leadership in the fight against European imperialism.

Every 6th March, citizens of the modern-day country of Ghana celebrate the independence of Ghana, the black star of Africa.

We wish all Ghanaians a Happy Independence Day!

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