Monday, August 26, 2013

DR JAMES EMMAN KWEGYIR AGGREY: THE GREATEST AND SPECIAL AFRICAN OF ALL TIME


One of the leading figures in the history of education in Africa was undoubtedly Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir Aggrey, more popularly known as "Aggrey of Africa". Noted as a great sociologist, orator, preacher, and far-sighted a politician, and equally famous for his witty and epigramatic sayings, Aggrey, an
apostle of inter-racial co-operation, advocated and helped to cut the path of progress for the African race in many fields, particularly in the direction of Religion, Education, and Agriculture. He is known as the "Father of African Education," "First African Gender Activist," "Pan-Africanist," "African Theologian," "Civil Right Activist," and "Father of Achimota College." Just type his name on Google and you are likely to get 11,000 results in 0.30 seconds.

Born on Monday, 18th October, 1875, at Anomabo in the Central Region of the Gold Coast, of Princess Abena Anowa of Ajumako, and Okyeame Prince Kodwo Kwegyir, Chief Linguist in the court of King Amonoo V of Anomabu, Aggrey was the seventeenth child of his father and fourth of his mother Abena Anowa, the third and last wife of Okyeame Kwegyir. ( Okyeame Kwegyir had 21 children in total; 9 by his first wife, 4 by his second and 8 by his third wife – Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey’s mother ).
It must be noted that Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey was born amidst rumours of an Ashanti invasion of Anomabo. However in the midst of warlike-preparations time was set aside to name the child, since it was the eighth day after his birth, as tradition demanded.
 At the naming ceremony and baptism on June 24th, 1883, Aggrey with his brother Kodwo Awir christian names of James and William, were by custom bestowed on him and his brother respectively. However other fantse names were given to young Aggrey and his full name was James Emman Kodwo Mensa Otsiwadu Humamfunsam Kwegyir Aggrey.  
Dr James Kwegyir Aggrey and his family

James was his baptismal name. The others are explained thus: Emman, ‘ Great city’ (this name was supposed to be spelled "Oman" in Fantse language but Cape Coast pronounciation affected it and Aggrey accepted it as such). Kodwo, ‘male child born on Monday’; Mensa, ‘third male child’; Otsiwadu, ‘tenth after Otsiwa’; Humamfunsam, ‘wide-ruling Agyeman’; Kwegyir, father’s name; Aggrey, family name. (Kwegyir is said to be a contraction of Kwaw Egyir. Egyir seems to have been the original family name, and have been anglicised ‘Aggrey’). The truth about the Fantse name Aggrey is that, Egyir has an alias as well as an appellation that is "Opusu" (Gurgling) and the Fantse people and their penchant for speaking English, Fantselized the "Gurgle" to Gegley" and out of Gegley the name Aggrey was born.
Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey’s father was not only a respected linguist ( spokesperson of a chief or king) but a warrior and his mother, was daughter of a great medicine man. It could hence be deduced that he was born into a traditional family but the family later became Christians and he (Dr. Aggrey) was baptised, hence the name James. (prior to this he was popularly known as Kojo, or Kodwo, Mensa. James recounted this when he stated: "My father and my mother, brothers and sisters became Christians through me. I got a taste for this thing when I was 8 years old."

                             Dr Aggrey`s Bust at Achimota School, Accra, Ghana.

Shortly before his eightieth birthday, he entered the Wesleyan School in Cape Coast, whence his father left with his mother to seek employment as a "goldtaker' with Mr. John Sarbah (an indigene of Anomabu and father of the late lawyer John Mensah Sarbah, CMG), a prosperous merchant and member of the Legislative Council, after the bankruptcy of Hon. George Kuntu-Blankson, in whose firm Kodwo Kwegyir had held a similar position for several years at Anomabu, fifteen miles east of Cape Coast.
Stories are told of how Dr. Aggrey’s younger sister (his favourite) admired him for the greediness at which he learnt and recited whatever he was taught at school: the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, ‘Thirty days hath September . . .’, the Multiplication table and so on. A lot is also said about his thinness (though he was growing strong and healthy) and how his mother associated it to his detest of ‘fufu’. But most importantly, from his boyhood, Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey was diligently pursuing knowledge. . .
He rose earlier than other members of the family, he would do his share of the ‘water-carrying’ and sweeping, then hiding a little boiled maize under his cloth with his books, would slip away to Amanfu on the seashore and read till school time. He would be seen everyday walking across Chapel Square, the centre of town, “oblivious of everything but the book upon which his eyes were glued”. It is said that, “rarely was he lower than fourth (4th) in class.

                                                      Achimota School

In 1888, Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey’s life changed with the arrival of Rev. Dennis Kemp, a Wesleyan missionary, who had arrived in Cape Coast from Barbados, West Indies. As part of his efforts to curb the illiteracy at the time, he proposed to take 20 people ( all boys) into the mission house for training, and favoured among them was Dr. James Kwegyir Aggrey.
In no time young Emmanuel distinguished himself in all branches of knowledge, and easily won the admiration of the Rev. Dennis Kemp. In the spacious mission home, "the most palatial residence in Cape Coast," Aggrey and twenty three other lads received instruction in joinery, blacksmithery, home decoration and painting, in addition to formal literary education (science, logic, etc).  As expected, Aggrey became more than ever engrossed in his books. He was quoted to have declared many times, “I want to know everything”.
 Aggrey had no time for ‘games’. He lived for books. Often he would stay up reading long after others were asleep. It was said that he would, when weary, tie a soaked towel around his head and sit with his feet in a basin of cold water. He was also a religious boy ( some history books refer to him as ‘a natural Christian’).
Two years afterwards and at the tender age of 14 years, Aggrey completed his course at this college, and accepted the post of temporary pupil teacher at Abura-Dunkwa (20 miles east of Cape Coast) on a monthly salary of 35 shillings. Aggrey was responsible for a class of about 30 boys.Here, Rev. Dennis Kemp had been appointed to the spiritual oversight of the Coast to the Prahso district), and Aggrey and Rev. Dennis Kemp made a two-day journey to this large circuit. At Ekroful, they were handicapped for lack of accommodation, there being no hotels or lodging houses, so they slept in the chapel; Rev. Kemp in the pulpit, and Aggrey in one of the pews.
By age 15, he was in sole control of the school  and was compelled to show his leadership prowess. He succeeded in raising the standards of the pupils’ work under his guidance ( both the day school and Sunday school which had become the largest in the circuit).
In a letter he wrote to the school 37 years later, Aggrey recounted, “In 1889 I was sent to Abura Dunkwa to teach a village school. I was kindergarten teacher, primary teacher, headmaster and all ”. He lamented about the poor conditions of teachers but stated clearly, “. . . and yet looking back upon my life, if I had the chance to live again,  I would gladly do it (teaching) again . .

A year afterwards, Aggrey transferred to Cape Coast, which was now becoming more prosperous; several Christian missionaries had arrived and fraternal, literary and social clubs, the Singing Band, Band of Hope, and the Chris't Little Band and the Y.M.C.A. were establishing themselves. Trade was becoming prosperous, with speculation in gold mines and the use of machinery increasing; railways had been introduced in the nearby district and banks were also established, newspapers were springing up, and the study of the English language was becoming popular.
Aggrey now joined the staff of the Wesleyan Memorial School, (built in 1881 and here he taught for many years). It was obvious that studying, for Aggrey was a lifestyle and not just a task. He was ‘found’ asking for lessons in preparation for the Cambridge Local Examination. At another time he was studying Magnetism and Electricity. He also traded with missionaries, giving lessons in the Fanti language in return for lessons in French, Latin and Psychology – he was always ready to share his knowledge with his pupils.
Dr. Aggrey is also known for his delight and use of long English words. He is quoted as such in one of his youthful essays, “ In the tropics, nature excels herself in superabundant productiveness”. When he could not find a word that suit him, he manufactured one. Again he’s quoted as saying, “ . . . the tropician is satisfied on land, the frigidian, ever on the icy waters . . .”.  He also coined for himself the title ‘tantabulator’ after the name of a music instrument, tanta-ba (in fanti), probably because it was the only instrument he could play so well.
Dr. Aggrey excelled in everything he ‘touched’ and he was proud of himself. He is quoted to have said, “ when I was being trained for the ministry, I ranked first in Greek, in Latin, in Bible History, in Logic, in Exegesis, yes, first in everything”. He was so good that the Wesleyan authorities permitted him to preach at age 16. By the time Dr. Aggrey turned 20, he was Assistant Headmaster at the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School.

       Anomabo Etsiwa Posuban, the Asafo (military) shrine that Dr James Kwegyir Aggrey belongs.

In 1889, when the Rev. J.B. Graham entered the ministry, Aggrey became the Headmaster of the school at the age of 23. He took all the Teachers' Certificate examinations offered by the Department of Education; and in the last and most important of these (in 1895) he stood first among the 119 candidates all over the country who entered and was the only one who gained a second class. The certificate of distinction he obtained qualified him without further examination, "to teach in any similar school in any British Colony, the world over." The Legislative Council voted (NC30.00) 15 pounds in his favour for the purchase of books in appreciation. His success in making the Cape Coast Wesleyan School the best school in the Colony, as stated by the then Director of Education with its 400 enrolled students, made Aggrey a figure of great consequence in the Gold Coast even at that time.
Dr James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey

From 1895 - 1898, we hear of Aggrey not only as an educational giant, but also as a politician and a soldier. Aggrey became a recording Secretary of the Aborigines Rights Protection Society, and for a short time acted as Chief Secretary of the Society. He carried about a petition for signatures against the notorious Public Lands Bill (1897). On one occasion, he performed the splendid task of walking, in the course of a single day, 36 miles to Manso to send an important cablegram to London on behalf of the Society.
Aggrey contributed many articles to the Gold Coast Methodist Times of which his friend Rev. Jacob Anaman was then the editor, thereby helping to get this unpopular Bill eventually withdrawn.
As a soldier in the Fanti-Ashanti war, we find Aggrey serving with the expedition under Colonel Sir Francis Cunningham Scott, a veteran of the Gold Coast Constabulary, and who had on his staff two British princes.
Prince Henry of Battenberg and Prince Christian Victor. Aggrey was an interpreter and was paid 7/6d. per day. He was attached to the Telegraph Unit under Captain R. S. Curtis and Lieutenant McInnes, who marched from Cape Coast to Kumasi in December, 1896. He saw fighting in Kumasi the following year, and returned to Cape Coast unhurt. Immediately afterwards, his father's people made him Tufuhene (Field Marshall) according to native custom, but although he accepted the honour he politely sought to be relieved of that office, as it would have stood in the way of his education and other civic programmes. This refusal, as we have seen, was not for lack of interest in African customs, but because he felt he could not fulfil all these functions at one time with justice to all.
It must be noted that Dr Aggrey was so popular amongst the Gold Coast educated elites that whatever he wear they also mimic his style. In his own words: "On the Gold Coast I was so popular that if I wore my hat over my right brow all the young men wore theirs in the same way. I did not know then that I knew nothing. From the Gold Coast I went to America, where I obtained two doctorates. Then I perceived that I knew nothing."
For the next twenty-six years, (from 10th July, 1898 to October 15th 1924), we hear of Aggrey steeping himself in pursuit of knowledge and education in America, for through the generous offer of Rev. John Bryan Small, a native of Barbados, Aggrey proceeded to America to be trained to join the Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Reluctantly, Aggrey left for the United States on 10th July, 1898 by SS "Accra" reaching America a month later. During this period, Aggrey, aptly described as a life-time student, successfully took examinations every year:
Aggrey was able to combine a good academic attitude with his diligence and hard work to raise funds (during the long vacation) to pay his fees. He recounted an experience while seeking for a job at a publishing firm, thus: “ When I asked for work, they told me they had no work except for a devil. I begun to black my face more black, as it is easy to do when you are using these hand machines. In 3 weeks, I was moved on to be a journeyman and in another 3 weeks. I was made a proof reader.”
 For his hard work, he was occasionally asked by editors of Charlotte Daily Observer (the same publishing firm) to contribute articles to their papers. Mr. H.E.C Bryant, through whose hands his contributions passed noted: “ He’s dark as dark, but very few in America can use English as he can. His articles go in without any blue-penciling”
 1902 Kwegyir Aggrey graduated with B.A honors. He also won a gold medal for English composition and a second gold medal for general scholarly deportment. In the same year, he delivered a Latin salutatory at Commencement –which in American colleges is the close of the term. He had earlier delivered the first Greek oration ever heard in the college.
In 1912 the degree of A.M was conferred upon him by the Livingstone College, and Hood Theological Seminary made him Doctorate Degree.
Prior to graduating, he had given assistance to the staff of the College. When a professor, A.B Johnson fell ill, Aggrey did his work for him. Upon the death of A.B Johnson, Aggrey was appointed Registrar and Financial Secretary. He taught classes in English Language and Literature, Sociology and Economics. He also acted as Treasurer of the college athletic association. He was also superintended of the College Sunday School and ordained an Elder of the Zion Methodist Church in 1903. He became Pastor at Miller's Chapel and Sandy Ridge in 1914. Hence after completing his course, the College authorities pressed him to stay.
Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey was always conscious of time. He was known by students as a ‘stickler for punctuality’. Students accused him of ‘putting on the clock’. They tried to catch him late, but never succeeded. A fellow student (and one-time principal), Dr. W.J. Trent wrote:
 “His influence at Livingstone, where he taught for more than 20 years was very precious and had a great deal to do with the improvement of the moral and spiritual conditions of the whole college life”
When in 1917, the position of the President of Livingstone College (which had become vacant ) passed over, though many expected and supported him for the post, Dr. Aggrey remained strong. He stated in a letter: “ I believe the Lord must have had something else in store for me. Hence I have been doing my best, patiently waiting until He gets ready for me to go elsewhere: where He leads, I’ll follow 
Dr Aggrey obtained his Philosophy Degree in Divinities in 1923. Then he returned home to Achimota College as foundation member of the staff in 1924 and as Assistant Vice-Principal, thanks to Governor Guggisbery, who made the foundation of the College possible.
Let me state here that in 1924, when the position of the Presidency of Livingstone College became vacant again and Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey ( who by then was in Gold Coast) was invited to take over as President , he declined the offer; committing himself to an invitation to  work as a staff member of Achimota School ( in Accra ), despite the fact that there was a big disparity between the income he was being offered and the one he was taking at that time.
In a letter to a friend, Dr. Aggrey explained his position thus: “ In the United States, Livingstone College stands first in my heart. I love her. God’s choicest blessing attended her. But in the whole wide world Africa, my Africa comes first”
It is apt at this juncture to mention Aggrey's contribution to the welfare of the Gold Coast in particular and Africa in general in three major fields. He served as the only African member on two internationally reputed
education commissions for Africa - the Phelps-Stokes fund Commission, which was regarded as the key-stone to raising the standard of education in Africa. In her will dated 1909, Miss Caroline Phelps-Stokes bequeathed her fortune, amounting to almost a million dollars, to trustees with the instruction that the income be used, inter alias, "for the education of Negroes, both in Africa and the United States, North American Indian and needy and deserving white students". Out of this came forth two Commissions, which toured almost every country in Africa for fact-finding, on both of which Aggrey features prominently.
During this journey Aggrey made a significant impression and underscored the importance of education among some people who would become important figures in Africa, including Hastings Kamuzu Banda, later president of MalawiNnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, and Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana.
Thus we hear of Aggrey in Sierra Leone and Liberia in September, 1920, in the Gold Coast in October to November, 1920 in Nigeria and Fernando Po in November to December 1920, the Cameroons in December 1920, the Belgian Congo in January 1921, Angola in January to February 1924, Kenya in February to March 1924, Uganda in March 1924, Tanganyika and Zanzibar in March to April 1924, Nyasaland and Rhodesia in April to June 1924, South Africa again in June 1924, and again in the Gold Coast in October, 1924.
In a telling letter to his wife, he wrote about his work on the commission. He said the characteristic of a Christian isto do more than he is commanded to do. He added:
"I can bear witness that turning the right check wins ultimately. Rightly does
Shakespeare make the critical Iago – Shakespeare’s consummate Satan – the
critic of critics, pay sweet-souled Desdemona this most excellent tribute: ‘She
holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than is requested.’ … I go
forth, Rose, first to serve my God, our God Who has appeared to me by
the side of the mountain and asked me to go lead my people away from the
Egypt of ignorance and maltreatment … I go to serve my people.”
While visiting Kenya, the Commission recommended four separate Education Advisory Committees for each racial group in Kenya (Europeans, Arabs, Indians and Africans). These committees steered educational development for each race until independence. It also recommended rural education and industrial training. The recommendations were adopted in 1925, Jeans School, Kabete opened to train artisans
In South Africa he delivered a lecture which used the keys of the piano as an image of racial harmony:
"I don’t care what you know; show me what you can do. Many of my people who get educated don’t work, but take to drink. They see white people drink, so they think they must drink too. They imitate the weakness of the white people, but not their greatness. They won’t imitate a white man working hard... If you play only the white notes on a piano you get only sharps; if only the black keys you get flats; but if you play the two together you get harmony and beautiful music"
 Dr Aggrey so much impressed the white settlers at public lectures that his audience wildly and admiringly exclaimed, "Damn his colour, he's a saint." His idea of education was the "All inclusive" type, "Secular education" was abhorrent to him; to him education meant the full development of the human personality. "By education," he said, " I do not mean simply learning. I mean the training of the mind, in morals and in a hand that helps to make one socially efficient. Not simply the three R's , but the three H's the head, the hand and the heart." He wanted this all-round training for girls as well as boys;
 "No race or people can rise half slave, half free. 
  The surest way to keep a people down is to 
   educate the men and neglect the  women.
   If you educate a man you simply educate an 
   individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family." 
Of University education, he said it should combine the best of east with the best of the west - the best of Africa with the best of Europe, Asia and America. "It should encourage original thinking, encourage research, help to add to human knowledge....we of West Africa have proved that we can get the classics, theology and philosophy. We are past masters in jurisprudence and dialectics. The question is, can we turn such knowledge more and more into the service of the common weal? Can we give back with interest what
we have received? I believe, we can. It is for University Education to prove what scientific training can do. University education should aim to give women parallel training and some day co-education....to subdue the
earth....Training for character: that is must be religious, must be christian: Christianity versus Church-going."
While in the United States, he did a great deal to help the needy negroes who were at the mercy of money lenders by encouraging the formation of Co-operative Farmers' Association, Farmers Unions Credit Union Banks, and other agricultural enterprises to relieve the negro of his financial embarrassment.
On his return to the Gold Coast, while on the staff at Achimota, he sought permission of the Director of Agriculture and toured the length and breadth of the Gold Coast, preaching the same ideals. The result was that the output and quality of farmers' crops in the twenties improved radically.
As an advocate for inter-racial co-operation, Aggrey contributed a lot to the cause of peace. His ideas were based on bi-racial grouping, and stood for civic pride and social betterment, taking pride in one's own race but seeking friendly relationship with other races. This was the radical opposite view of ultra-racial group of thinkers and the ultra-conservative school of intellectuals of whom Marcus Garvey was described as a great champion.
Aggrey always urged his people to be proud of their race and colour. He believed they should remain distinct because they had their definite and particular contribution to make to the harmony of mankind. Not
amalgamation, nor conflict, but co-operation was Aggrey's ideal. He expressed this by his example of Piano Keys:
 "You can play a tune of sorts on the black keys, 
  and you can play a tune of sorts on the white keys, 
  but for harmony you must use both the black and the white."
 "True co-operation," he said "involves a certain measure of 
  equality - equality of opportunity, if not of actual political status. 
  It means that each side has something to contribute - something 
  more than braun on one side, brain on the other - to the well-being of both". 

Aggrey was noted for the hundreds of conferences he attended, in most of which he acted as president, secretary or leading member, sometimes representing his university, sometimes the church, sometimes Africa
generally. They were too numerous to be listed, but a few of them can be mentioned here: the National Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church Foreign Missions Conference of North America, Kennedy School Mission Conference, the School of Theology and the School of Religious Pedagogy, the Congregrational Missionary Society Conference, First Congregational Church of Jersey City Conference, Eastern Union of Students Volunteers Conference, National Conference of Canadian students and the International Convention of the Students Volunteer Movement Conference, and the British West Africa
Congress.
Nor had Aggrey everything smooth. He suffered many perils, but did his best to overcome them all. He even escaped a shipwreck on October 17th, 1925, as he and Mrs. Aggrey sailed in SS "Cedric" for America.
Earlier, in July 1925, he experienced his real baptism of fire while away in Koforidua (Eastern part of the Gold Coast) during the long vacation - "all my things were stolen including 9 suits, 25 shirts, trunks, a brand new suit-case, and 6 pounds 11 shillings in cash. They left one old trunk and my visiting cards...I lost very heavily - I can never restore some of the valuables stolen, much less those above value - I determined not to give up, but move on to success". This was a big blow to him and his family. Aggrey, it is recorded, had financial troubles. He had mortgaged his house in America and furniture for 500 pounds, and the mortgagor wished it redeemed; and it is further related that to raise funds to redeem it, Aggrey had to sell his farm together with other property at a considerable loss. He lost over NC 3,400.00 on the transaction. But he was a man who was always in good spirits - nothing could depress him.
He had an unexhaustible fund of wise saying, a few of which are recorded hereunder as a matter of interest:
"I am proud of my colour; whoever is not proud of his colour is not fit to live." 
"Keep your temper and smile," he would say, "that's what Jesus meant when 
he told men to turn the other cheek." 
"I have no time for revenge - That's not African." 
"Some white people ought to be transformed to negroes just for a few days, so 
as to feel what we feel and suffer what we suffer."

"If I find a man scowling at me, I just smile back. He scowls again, and I 
smile. I don't often find anyone scowl a third time." 

 “ Some people took to war; we took to love; some people took to hate: we took to song; some people took to anger; we took to laughter; some people took to despair; we took to hope. ‘ Patrol is going to get you; the bloodhound is going to get you; you can’t run as fast as the bloodhounds; what are you going to do, black man?’. In the darkest part of the night when everybody else might have despaired, we looked and we sang, long before our white brothers thought of an airplane, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry me Home.’ “

"I tell the southern people of America, with whom I have lived for over twenty years, that they have a special contribution to make towards the solving of the race problem, and of the civilization of Africa. They have lived side by side with us; they know our faith, our loyalty, our honesty, our sensitiveness; they know the things we prize the most: such knowledge should be used for the extension of God’s Kingdom”

“No first class educated African wants to be a White man……………..Every educated Negro wants to be a first class Negro, not a third class European……….The superiority complex is doing  a tremendous mischief in Africa………..When I am worried, I go on my knees and I talk to God in my own language…………”

“ Laughing is the way to go through life. It is the positive side of Christ’s law of non-resistance.”

"I prefer to be a Spokesman for my entire country: Africa, my Africa."
"You can never beat prejudice by a frontal attach. Because there is mere 
emotion at the root of it. Always flank it. You can catch more flies with 
molasses than you can with the vinegar." 

"I often receive kicks from both sides - white and black. But all of that is in the 
day's work. One needn't be surprised." 

"Only the best is good for Africa." 
Aggrey was also a far-sighted man. Those who doubted his words lived to see the truth therein in the end. He compared Africa to the Sleeping Beauty, and asserted his confidence in her future that she would one day wake up to find herself very important in the comity of nations.
This he put in a letter to Dr. Jesse Jones, a highly reputed American minister of religion and a great intellectual, who was Aggrey’s great friend. “It seems to me,” he wrote to Dr. Jones in September, 1919, “that this is the psychological moment for Africa, and I believe you are destined metaphorically to stoop down and kiss Sleeping Beauty Africa back into life from her centuries of sleep.” Dr. Jones confessed that what Aggrey said seemed a gross exaggeration to him; “they were to me the fantastic imaginations of an emotional African. Much as I believed in Aggrey, I could not share his forecasts.” But he came to see that Aggrey was right. Looking back upon the gratifying results that followed the Commission, he wrote; “In
answer to my own doubts and in acknowledgement of my error, I here record that Aggrey’s dreams have come true with almost miraculous accuracy. Signs of the future indicate that they will continue in their realization until Aggrey’s Africa will take its place amongst the continents of the world.”
Aggrey, for all his greatness, was a man of very simple life even when Headmaster of the most outstanding school in his time (1895). He always washed his own clothes although his younger brother, Awir, “as soon as he began clerkship, employed a laundress.”
While in America as a professor, in spite of illness he preached four times every Sunday. “I did not want to disappoint the public, so I told sickness to hold off for a day, and Monday it returned with a vengeance.” He was a man full of humour, one whose sense of humour even captivated and subdued the intentions of his enemies. Once, when he was Assistant Vice-Principal, at Achimota, he proceeded to Sierra Leone to represent the College at the Centenary Celebrations of Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone.
The situation was delicate, but the occasion very important. Aggrey had many friends in Freetown, but some of these friends, and several others, (rightly) looked askance at Achimota. Fourah Bay College had long
occupied the pre-eminent position on the West Coast, its graduates were to be found everywhere in West Africa, and consequently it stood emphatically for the academic tradition in education, at least in West Africa. It was affiliated to Durham University in Great Britain. On the contrary, Achimota was not even the first nor the second college in the Gold Coast, and was looked upon as an upstart; its ideals were not the
Fourah Bay ideals. And here, Aggrey was expected to attend a conference at Fourah Bay College as a spokesman of a serious competitor – Achimota.
It was even feared that he would be mobbed and killed. It required the tact, shrewdness, and intelligence, which could be Aggrey’s alone. He got up and started, “My case reminds me of a young girl who returned home from a party and told her father that a young man had kissed her. Her father said, “how many times did he kiss you?” She looked into his face and replied: “Father, I came to confess, not to boast.” He had come, Aggrey continued, “ not to boast of Achimota, but to confess what debt Achimota, Gold Coast, owed to Fourah Bay College. Fourah Bay College stands to the Gold Coast as the symbol of the African’s educational capacity.”  It is recorded that “after the speech every door and every heart was open to him”. Between November 19th and December 4th, he was called upon to deliver twenty-four speeches.
Enough has been said so far of “Aggrey the Great” himself, and something now must be said about his family or private life. Aggrey was married to a young pretty and learned American negress, a Miss Rosebud Douglas of Portsmouth, USA and the wedding took place on November 8th, 1905, at Portsmouth. Within five years of marriage, three children were born to them, namely, Abena Azalea (1907), Kwegyir (1908), and Rosebud (1910). On 24th July, 1926 a fourth child was born, Orson Rudolf Guggisberg.
Aggrey was a great lover of children, and took great pains to train his children, advising them on how to be careful in life.But his end was drawing near. Aggrey, a co-founder of Achimota College, first in many
of the examinations he took; holder of the degrees of Master of Arts (Livingstone College), Doctor of Divinity (Hood Theological Seminary), Master of Arts (Columbia), Doctor of Philosophy (Columbia), and holder of many diplomas, joined the staff of Achimota in July, 1924. He left for America in July, 1926, returned in November that year. Achimota (Gold Coast) his dream, was formally opened on 28th January, 1927, and in May that year he left for England and America once more, only to die on 30th July of pneumococcal meningitis.
His death was a sad but great affair; he was mourned in all the continents. Two thousand mourners, white and black, attended the service in the auditorium of Livingstone College. Bishop W. J. Walls conducted the service, and tributes were paid by many dignatories, including Dr. W.H. Goler, ex-President of the College, Professor Branley of Shaw University, Dr. Jesse Jones, Bishop W.W. Jones, Dr. George E. Davis of the State Department of Public Instruction, and Dr. S. G. Aikins, President of the Teachers’ College at Winston-Salem.
Birth: 1875, Ghana
Death: Jul. 30, 1927
New York, USA

Son of Kodwo Kwegyir Aggrey & Abna Andua, he was born in Anamabu, Ghana, West Africa.

Married Rosebud "Rose" Douglass on November 8, 1905

Father of:

Abna Azalea (Aggrey) Lancaster(1907-1997)
Kwegyir Aggrey (1908-1986)
Rosebud Douglass Aggrey (1910-1990)
Orison Rudolph Aggrey (1926- )

The honorary pall-bearers were all white citizens of Salisbury: Mr. E.C. Gregory the exMayor, A.L. Smoot, Mr. J.M. McCorkle, Mr. A Buerbaum, Mr. W.H. Leonard and Mr. J.C. Kasler. In Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Australia similar ovations and last respects were offered in his honour: and in the Gold Coast (the land of his birth), every town and village observed his death by weeping and mourning.
For that was the physical end of the man everybody loved, the man who apparently never had an enemy, and the man whose talent and virtues were admired by all classes of the society.
The Aggrey Students’ Society, formed in April, 1928, in America and the Gold Coast, and the Aggrey House, Achimota (Ghana), together with millions of Africans and Europeans who admire his noble achievements will always make Aggrey immortal, and inspire those of later generations to further greatness.

                                     Anomabo beach
source:http://oaancareunion.myevent.com/clients/33501/File/Biography%20of%20Dr%20J.pdf
            http://voicesofhistorygh.blogspot.com

Dr J E Kwegyir Aggrey is rather Special

By Professor Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu
'Only the best is good enough for Africa. My people of Africa, we were created in the image of God, but men have made us think we are chickens, and we still think we are, but we are eagles. Stretch forth your wings and fly! Don't be content with food of chickens'.  Dr J E Kwegyir Aggrey.
When, at dawn, 50 years ago on Independence Day, Kwame Nkrumah uttered the following memorable words, 'A greater than Aggrey is here!' few considered that statement a hyperbole. Admittedly, Nkrumah had had some ground prepared for him by yesteryears' freedom fighters, and by the Big Five who invited him become the Big Sixth, to lead the struggle for Independence, but the way he rallied the population to achieve the seemingly impossible, namely the translation of Colonial Gold Coast into Self Governing Ghana, placed him in the history books. No mean Feat! However, the mere fact that Nkrumah found it necessary to link his achievement to the name of Kwegyir Aggrey, howbeit subordinatively, proved that he, Kwame Nkrumah, held Dr Kwegyir Aggrey in the greatest esteem.
Mount Everest
If, to Ghanaian eyes, Kwame Nkrumah now considered himself justifiably as Mount Everest, then Kwegyir Aggrey had been delegated to the Second Highest Peak in the Himalayas of national and international esteem. Inspiration-wise, however, Kwegyir Aggrey has no rivals, in my opinion. For, while Kwame Nkrumah inspired nations, Aggrey inspired nationals, including Kwame Nkrumah himself when he was a student at Achimota College. Read on, and see whether you agree with me.
New African Survey
The highly respected London-based international journal, New African, with a worldwide readership of more than 200,000 published the results of a 12-month long survey regarding who the readers thought were 'THE 100 GREATEST AFRICANS OF ALL TIME'. The Editor asked readers to state why they voted as they did. Commenting on the votes, and the attached reasons showing why they voted as they did, New African's brilliant Editor Mr Baffour Ankomah, had this to say: 'The total shows Nelson Mandela as your No. 1 Greatest African of all time, followed closely by Nkrumah ' but, Ankomah went on to say that in certain respects 'the results are disappointing' (New African August/September 2004, page 14). Readers had voted 5 Ghanaians, 2 dead (Yaa Asantewa & Kwame Nkrumah) and 3 living (Kofi Annan, Abedi Pele, plus one other - myself) in their list, giving their reasons for their choice - reasons that were also published alongside the order of merit. As I read the list I shared Baffour Ankomah's disappointment, and I immediately wrote a letter to the Editor, which was published in the very next issue, October 2004, page 4.
Aggrey Of Africa
I was very surprised to find my name among the "100 Greatest Africans of all time". I was even more surprised that Aggrey of Africa was not mentioned at all, which made me agree totally with your comment (New African August/September 2004) that, 'in certain respects the results are disappointing'.
I would want to make two pleas: First, that my name be replaced by that of Dr James E K Aggrey and, secondly, that you allow me to write an article for a subsequent issue of New African, which could not only help your readers world-wide realise why that great man was called 'Aggrey of Africa', but also make those who kindly voted for me forgive my suggestion that I be replaced by somebody else.
Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu, London, UK
On page 50 of the same October 2004 issue of the magazine, the Editor managed to publish my article much of which is reproduced here around the date that a plaque is unveiled at Anomabo in honour of Dr Kwegyir Aggrey and others who made Ghana proud.
The man Kwegyir Aggrey
I don't know who first gave Dr James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey the title 'Aggrey of Africa' but he was an early 20th Century phenomenon. I first heard of his name from my father many decades ago. Aggrey was born a mere 15 miles from Cape Coast, at Anomabo, in Ghana on 18th October 1875. His father was Prince Kodwo Kwegyir, chief linguist in the court of King Amonu V of Anomabo, and his mother Abena Andua, was a princess of Ajumako. Aggrey's father was also an expert goldsmith.
At 22, Aggrey left for the USA to pursue further studies. Racial prejudice, known then as 'Colour Bar', was at its worst, and he went to 'Negro' Colleges. The Americans were surprised at his knowledge of English. A Mr H E C Bryant was to remark: 'He is dark as dark, but very few in America can use English as he can'.
Aggrey took his Masters in 1912, and was soon awarded a Doctorate of Divinity by the Hood Theological Seminary. His sermons amazed white and black Americans alike. He had married Rose Douglass, an African American of Portsmouth, Virginia, on November 8 1905, and they had two girls and two boys [Abna, Kwegyir, Rosebud, Rudolph]. Orison Rudolph Guggisberg Aggrey, the last born became a diplomat in the U S Foreign Service and worked in Senegal and Romania.

Phelps-Stokes
One American lady, Miss Caroline Phelps-Stokes, in her Will dated 1909, bequeathed $1 m (a huge sum in those days) to Trustees to be used mainly 'on the education of Negroes, both in Africa and the United States, North American Indians and needy and deserving white students'. Commissioners were appointed to do the groundwork, and Aggrey was included among the all-white members. This enabled him to return to tour Africa twice in four years.
Wherever he went, Aggrey was in demand to speak, advise, and preach. He found the 'Colour Bar' as vicious on his continent as in the USA, but he was remarkably equipped to deal with it. In the Belgian Congo, the governor left him out when he invited the Commission to dinner! In Angola, when Aggrey saw the treatment of the Portuguese masters to labourers in the forced labour gangs, he wept.
South Africa
In South Africa alone, Aggrey addressed audiences 120 times. On one occasion when the hall was packed in Cape Town and Aggrey arrived, the white gate keeper refused to let him in. Calmly, and in a dignified voice, Aggrey said: 'It is me they are all gathered to hear'. Still the gate keeper was recalcitrant, while others filed past him into the hall, until the white chairman of the meeting, becoming anxious, rushed out to look for Aggrey. He discovered that he was being obstructed. Aggrey was given a standing ovation. But in Pretoria, when he was trying to board a train to lecture, he was pushed out. Even so he was offered two professorships on the spot; one at Fort Hare, and the other at South Africa College. People listened to him with amazement.
USA and Canada
Before the Second Phelps-Stokes Commission tour of Africa, Aggrey lectured both in the USA and Canada. His ex tempore lectures were followed by a series of questions, and once a Dutch South African minister shed tears of shame at the horrors of the race problem. It was during a lecture in Canada that Aggrey made one of his great statements: 'Only the best is good enough for Africa'.
Second Phelps-Stokes Commission
In January 1924, Aggrey sailed from New York for England to join the Second Phelps-Stokes Commission to go to the places in Africa where they had not visited before - Abyssinia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Nyasaland, Rhodesia, South Africa again, and the Gold Coast. After hearing him lecture on the second visit to South Africa, a white man exclaimed; 'Damn his colour, the man is a saint!'
Fraser, Guggisberg, Aggrey
Aggrey turned out to be a great educationist, just as he had wished when he was young. By an amazing stroke of fortune, he met two great white men with whom he co-founded Achimota College in Accra, the Rev A G Fraser and Sir Gordon Guggisberg, the colonial governor. Rev Fraser wanted the best for Africa, while Guggisberg, rare among colonial governors, recognised the potential of the black man, and set about building Takoradi Harbour, Korle Bu Hospital, and Achimota College (now School). Rev Fraser was Principal, and Aggrey was Assistant vice-Principal. Apparently the Colonial Office in London objected to making a black man vice-Principal in a college which was originally called Prince of Wales College.
Aggrey's Vision of Co-education
It was Aggrey who persuaded Governor Guggisberg that the college should be co-educational. Aggrey said: 'The surest way to keep people down is to educate the men and neglect the women. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family'. He stressed that education should encourage 'original thinking, research, and also help to add to human knowledgeWe in West Africa have proved that we can get the classics, theology, and philosophy. We are great masters in jurisprudence and dialectics. The question is can we turn such knowledge into the service of the common weal?'
Original Thinking & Character Training
Aggrey always held that the essential part of education was training the mind, encouraging good character, and being original. Aggrey could think on his feet. He was not a 'by heart' man; this was what most amazed his audience, both white and black. Lectures brilliantly given could be thought to have been carefully prepared for the sole aim of making an impression, but come question time after the lecture, when he did not know what he would be quizzed on, and Aggrey was even more brilliant than in the lecture itself. His knowledge was encyclopaedic.
Co-operation in the right measure
Aggrey believed in co-operation which involved equality of opportunity. 'It means that each side has something to contribute - something more than brawn on one side, brain on the other - to the well being of both'. [Please read that again; I love it!] Hence his famous piano keys illustration on the badge of Achimota School. 'You can play a tune of sorts on the black keys only, and you can play a tune of sorts on the white keys only, but for perfect harmony, you must use both the black and the white keys', Aggrey said. The co-operation he was calling for between whites and blacks was not that between an ass and its rider. I always like to think of his piano keys illustration as depicting what he (black key) and Fraser and Guggisberg (white keys) managed to achieve in bringing Achimota School about.
Aggrey's humility
The man's humility too is worth mentioning, as when he took his fellow Fante, Rev Anaman, by surprise by polishing Anaman's shoes when he spent the weekend with him. Once when on a sea voyage to South Africa, and the ship's white steward insisted on separating Aggrey from the white people by giving him his own table far away from every body, to the embarrassment of his colleagues, Aggrey later remarked: 'They thought they were punishing me, but who else had a table all by himself?'
Aggrey's Ambition for Africa
Kwegyir Aggrey's burning ambition for his continent - which he described as enigmatic, pointing out its shape on the map as posing a question mark (?) - his burning ambition is demonstrated in the following story he narrated. Read carefully:
A certain man went through a forest seeking any bird he might find. He caught a young bird, brought it home, and put it among his fowls and ducks and turkeys, and gave it chicken's food to eat. Five years later, a naturalist came to visit the man, and noticed the bird. He said to the owner; 'Look here, this is an eagle, not a chicken.' The man replied 'Yes, you may well be right, but I have trained it to be a chicken. It is no longer an eagle; it is a chicken though it is enormous'.
Said the naturalist: 'No, it is an eagle, it has the heart of an eagle, and I shall make it soar high to the heavens'. The owner comes back with a retort: 'No, it is now a chicken, and it will never fly'.
They agreed to test it. The naturalist picked up the bird, held it up, and said loudly: 'Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not down here. Stretch out thy wings and fly', and with that he hurled the bird up. The eagle turned this way and that, and then looking down, saw the chickens eating, and came to join them. The owner said: 'I told you it is now a chicken'. 'No', said the naturalist, 'This bird is an eagle. I shall come back and prove this to you'. The exercise was repeated three times, with the same result. The bird always came back to feed with the chickens.
The naturalist returned yet again, chose a hill, and held the bird aloft, pointing it to the rising sun, and shouted 'Eagle! Thou art an eagle; thou dost not belong down here. Thou dost belong to the sky; stretch forth thy wings, and fly!' The eagle looked round, trembled as if new life was filling it, and suddenly it stretched out its wings, and with the screech of an eagle, it mounted higher, and higher, and never returned. It was really an eagle, though it had been kept and tamed as a chicken!
'My people of Africa' Aggrey continued 'we were created in the image of God, but men have made us think that we are chickens, and we still think we are, but we are eagles. Stretch forth your wings and fly! Don't be content with food of chickens'.
Opening of Achimota College and Final Journey
Achimota School was opened in 1927, and Aggrey went to the USA lecturing and preaching, and completing a book in Columbia University. He fell ill on 30 July 1927 from meningococcal meningitis in New York, and died very quickly. Great lamentation was made on both sides of the Atlantic. Tributes included that of one his best friends, Dr Jesse Jones. The honorary pall bearers who carried his coffin were all white citizens of Salisbury, USA - a real token of Aggrey's influence in the community in those days of 'Colour Bar'.
Source of Immense Inspiration
His ability to inspire Africans, especially Ghanaians has never abated. There is an Aggrey House in Achimota, an Aggrey Memorial Chapel, and the country has an Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Lecture series. There is an Aggrey Memorial School, a Kwegyyir Aggrey Annual Prize Examination at the University of Cape Coast, linked to the Personal Distinguished Professorship graciously bestowed on me when Professor Samuel K Adjepong was Vice Chancellor. We must never forget this man Kwegyir Aggrey. Going back to Kwame Nkrumah's statement 'A greater than Aggrey is here', history has established him, Nkrumah, as great, judging not only from the blow he dealt Colonialism, but also from the way he made Black Diaspora proud. New African voters placed Kwame Nkrumah second only to Nelson Mandela, in their list of 'ONE HUNDRED GREATEST AFRICANS OF ALL TIME' indicating that he was really great. But let me tell you, James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey is rather special. His chain of inspiration lengthens with time: Apart from inspiring Nkrumah himself, Kwegyir Aggrey inspired and taught D A Chapman Nyaho, who inspired and taught K B Asante, who inspired and taught me Physics in Achimota School - even me, who (I'm told) inspired my students, who in turn are inspiring their students. Thus Kwegyir Aggrey's inspiration chain progresses. His name is yet alive. Just GOOGLE Search the name 'Kwegyir Aggrey' on the Internet, and you will find that the man still marches on.
Anomabo
It is therefore most fitting, as reported by Ghana News Agency on Jan. 8 2007, that 'Memorial plaques to honour three heroes of Anomabofor the great and exemplary contributions made to the country, would be unveiled on February 24, by President John Agyekum Kufuor as part of the Golden Jubilee Celebration of nationhood. They are Dr Kwegyir Aggrey, the visionary philosopher and educationist, George Ekem-Ferguson, the celebrated surveyor, credited with the survey of the area that became the Gold Coast, and Nana Amoonoo V, the Anomabo chief, who led other traditional rulers in the Colony to sign the Bond of 1844'. We say 'Ayekoo!' to the Anomabo Association and the Traditional Area, and to Paramout Chief and other Chiefs for bringing this to pass.
Gratitude of Kwegyir Aggrey's Relatives in USA
There are 4 surviving generations of Kwegyir and Rose Aggrey's relatives living in the USA today. Rudolph, the last of the 4 children is yet alive, and has one daughter Roxane Rose Aggrey who is not married. The middle children Kwegyir and Rosebud Douglass Aggrey had no children. Abna Azalea Aggrey Lancaster, the eldest of the childen of Kwegyir & Rose Aggrey, had three girls Raemi Rosemarie Lancaster Evans, Carol Aggrey Lancaster Meeks, and Harriet Azalea Lancaster Graves [Generation-3 from Kwegyir Aggrey & Rose as Generation-1]. Raemi, is married to Fred M Evans, and they have a son Fred and daughter Janine [Generation-4] both with 2 children each [Generation-5] - Janine & Guanah Davis' are Adria Marie & Lauryn Janine, while Fred & Evette Evans' are called Kristen Maria and Fred Junior. Abna's middle girl, Carol has a daughter Abigail who is married to Stewart Mitchell II, and they have just had another Generation-5 offspring, Stewart Mitchell III. Now, Harriet is married to Hubert C Graves, and they have a daughter called Meredith Patrice Graves. I took note that Carol's full name is Carol Aggrey Lancaster Meeks. Speaking to her on the telephone across The Atlantic, it was as if I felt the genetic acoustics of Aggrey of Africa percolating down the generations to me. They are all very, very, grateful that we in Ghana are remembering, in this our Golden Jubilee Year, our beloved (and their beloved) James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey and his dearly beloved Rose. So am I.
BY:Felix I D Konotey-Ahulu, Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, University of Cape Coast, Ghana









Dr Aggrey in South Africa and how Benedict Wallet Bambatha Vilakazi”, of  Ilanga lase Natal newspaper captured his contribution to South Africa, published in November 8, 1947
            JAMES EMMAN KWEGYIR AGGREY
It is extraordinary the impact James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey, better known as “Aggrey of Africa”, had in South Africa on his arrival in 1921 as part of the American delegation of the Phelps-Stokes Commission. He was to spent three months in the country. One specific aim of the Commission was to help bring about better and harmonious racial relations between Africans and Europeans, as well as to examine the conditions and opportunities of education among Africans. His arrival was opportune because South Africa was profoundly preoccupied with constructing modernity. Being a Ghanian, who had studied and lived in United States for twenty-two years before his visit, Aggrey epitomized to New African intellectuals such as H. I. E. Dhlomo, H. Selby Msimang, Abdullah Abdurahman and others, the absolute blending of New Negroism and New Africanism. He exemplified what the New Africans in South Africa were striving for: the harmonious admixture of the New African and the New Negro. Aggrey seems to have symbolically represented this historical wish and desire in the imagination of the New Africans. This explains the spectacular deference that nearly all the New African intellectuals and political leaders showed to Aggrey. Towards the end of Aggrey’s three-month mission in South Africa, D. D. T. Jabavu sketched a brilliant political and intellectual portrait of him which originally appeared in two American journals, The New York Age and The Star of Zion, and was subsequently re-printed in Imvo Zabantsundu: “South Africa is a land that literally bristles with problems, racial, social, political and economic. . . . Now, Dr. Aggrey, a Native of the Gold Coast, trained in England and America, has in some respects shown in a series of closely reasoned lectures (lately delivered in Cape Town, Victoria East, King William’s Town, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Queenstown, East London, Durban, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Umtata and various other districts of the Transvaal, The Orange Free State, Natal and Transkei) more than any other casual visitor to this land how this inter-racial comity may be composed. . . . Of African origin he is a man of medium stature, of jet black hue, whose conversation is characterised by a simplicity and colloquiality  agreeably homely for a scholar of his intellectual caliber. We have been highly impressed by his severely practical views as an educationist, his achievement in work of social uplift, and the gospel of self-help that he preached with telling confidence and persuasive eloquence. I was privileged to be closely associated with him in part of his travel in my district and was thus enabled to study at first hand his caprivating personality and his versatility as a public speaker. He gave addresses each of a distinct stamp to suit the occasion, all strictly practical, never nebulous but always to the point. He excelled in the art of concentrating his thought on one specific topic, and finally gathering up his argument, getting it home to the hearts of his bearers with Quintilian effect. His method of extempore speech, without the slightest note-paper for reference, invested his discourse with a genuineness that astonished his audience, compelling their admiration. Without doubt, he has done more than any other visitor I know of, in the brief space of time, to persuade people in our circumstances of the necessity of racial co-operation between white and black. . . . Certainly his talent for Logic and mastery of Crowd-Psychology, sharpened by University studies, made him more than a match in open public debate for the most hostile audiences of disgruntled opponents that he frequently encountered. His Christian humility and social social urbanity made him a central figure of admiration with all grades of society. His secret lies in his Christianity, . . . . “ (“Dr. J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey in South Africa”, Imvo Zabantsundu, June 7, 14, 1921). This obeisance to the Ghanian New Negro is all the more surprising because he does not seem to have been a major intellectual or artist or thinker. He exuded a deep belief in political liberalism. In some ways, he was a disciple of Booker T. Washington believing very strongly in accomodation to the hegemonic white status quo (whether majoritarian, as is the case in United States, or minoritarian, as was the case in South Africa) and reconciliation to the ruling order. Perhaps one his appeals to the New African middle class was his unwavering hostility to Garveyism. The middle class was confronted then by the emergence of peasant millenarian movements inspired by Garveyism which actually saw Marcus Garvey as a ‘Black Moses’ who must come and liberate the African people in South Africa from white oppression and domination. Perhaps these two reasons explain his appeal to the incipient middle class. It is not surprising therefore that the two leading New African newspapers, Ilanga lase Natal and Umteteli wa Bantu, extolled his visit and effect. Announcing the visit of James Aggrey, Umteteli wa Bantu quoted a portion of a talk he gave, which could be taken as his political credo of modernity: “I don’t care what you know; show me what you can do. Many of my people who get educated don’t work, but take to drink. They see white people drink, so they think they must drink too. They imitate the weakness of the white people, but not their greatness. They won’t imitate a white man working hard. . . . If you play only the white notes on a piano you get only sharps; if only the black keys you get flats; but if you play the two together you get harmony and beautiful music” (April 9, 1921). The newspaper indicated clearly that it supported such a statement. Two weeks later reporting on travels and talks throughout the country, the newspaper stated the following: “He held the attention of his large audience by a relation of his experiences in America, out of which he has learned that work is the fundamental basis of individual and national achievement” (“The Phelps-Stokes Commission”, Umteteli wa Bantu, April 23, 1921). In an Editorial which was requesting funds from the public to assist John Langalibalele Dube in attending the Pan-African Congress organized in Versailles in 1921 by W. E. B. Du Bois, Ilanga lase Natal took this occasion to praise the historical vision of James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey: “We have recentky had amongst us one notable African who has received his education in the United States, Dr. Aggrey, who emphasised one phase which is very necessary to our development, that of self-help” (“The Progress of the Negro World”, April 29, 1921). Through his philosophy of reconciliation, James Aggrey assisted in the establishing of the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans. It is perhaps his facilitating the making of the Joint Council that endeared him so profoundly to the New African intelligentsia. As an indication of the high esteem in which he was held, when Aggrey died in 1927, two leading intellects of the New African Movement wrote remarkable obituaries in his memory. R. V. Selope Thema, had this to say: “The news of the sudden death of Dr. J. E. K. Aggrey in New York gave many of his friends in South Africa, both black and white, a shock from which they have not yet recovered. It is difficult fully to appreciate the tragedy that his passing means for the mutual understanding and co-operation between the white and black races in working out the destiny of Africa. As is well known Dr. Aggrey was the apostle of the gospel of inter-racial goodwill and harmony. He was the only man who could interpret Africa to Europe and Europe to Africa. He was the only educated African who, in spite of the sufferings of Africa’s sons and daughters under the tyrannical rule of the nations of Europe, maintained the human qualities so characteristic of the African peoples---the qualities of humility, fidelity, patience, large-heartedness and love. . . . Of his great work at Achimota. Gold Coast, nothing can be said by us in South Africa. But there can be no doubt his death is a great blow to that great institution which is destined to revolutionise the whole of West Africa, if not the African continent. Thus in his death Africa has lost a great son and humanity a pillar of international goodwill and harmony” (“The Death of James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey”, Umteteli wa Bantu, September 17, 1927). Solomon T. Plaatje wrote similar observations: “Among the sad news of the month must be mentioned the death of this great West African scholar and international statesman. In the fields of education, diplomacy and race co-operation, it is doubtful whether, since the death of the late Dr. E. W. Blyden (whose monument faces Freetown Harbour at Sierra Leone) the work of any African on this side of the Atlantic ever deserved so much admiration as that of James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey, M. A., D. Ph., at one time Professor at Livingstone College, Salisbury, North Carolina, U. S. A., and lately of Prince of Wales College, Achimota, Gold Coast, West Africa. The writer met this eminent and highly educated Native  first in 1920 at the School of Oriental Studies, London. . . . We afterwards met in Canada, and in New York two years later, and and spent some helpful evenings together while, he was reading at Columbia University for his degree of Philosophy. Let me say that I have seldom, if ever, met a more spright gentleman nor a more sincere and loyal friend. . . . Deceased loved South Africa with an almost incredible intensity. Recognising that his own people on the West Coast, in contrast with the South African Natives, far down the scale of development, had much wider opportunities to share in the fuller life, he was ready to lay the fruit of his vast learning and ripe experiences at the feet of his countrymen in this Union. . . . And when he met them [Africans in South Africa] he would urge forebearance with our tormentors until the time the Native had acquired all the good obtainable from the presence of a white civilisation in their midst. Needless to say, many Natives did not share his views on the excellence of the character of Uncle Tom” (“The Death of James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey”, September 17, 1927). The total and singular respect that practically all the major figures of the New African Talented Tenth had for James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey is very amazing today in the first few months of the twenty-first century. For example, nearly two decades after the death of Aggrey, in a threnody memorializing John Langalibalele Dube who had recently died, H. I. E. Dhlomo places the great Ghanian New African in a pantheon of immortal African leaders:
             He [John Dube] now belongs to the immortal few
             Who on the Tree of Time their
                     names did hew
              With blades of beauty, pain and
                     noble deeds;
               In service to their people and their
                      needs;
               Such Shaka, Aggrey, Khama, Han-
                      nibal
               And many more who answered to
                      Life’s call
               His work and efforts and his name
                      and fame,
               Forever in our midst will be a flame
               Inspiring us to fight for liberty,
               An echo and a rod to make us free.
(“John Langalibalele Dube: Two Songs”, Ilanga lase Natal, February 23, 1946). Nearly two years later, in another threnody commemorating the tragic death of Benedict Vilakzi, H. I. E. Dhlomo places Aggrey in another pantheon:
                Black bards and heroes greet their friend and peer;
                Great Shaka, Magolwana there appear,
                Mbuyazi, Aggrey, Dube, Mqhayi, ache
                To meet him---so Bambatha, his namesake;
                Not these alone, for here below he loved
                And spoke with long-haired bards, among them moved;
                Now Keats, his idol, whom he prayed to greet,
                And Catholic great Dante, Comedy
                Divine enjoying, smiles to meet and see
                A Catholic bard mate.
(“Ichabod! Benedict Wallet Bambatha Vilakazi”, Ilanga lase Natal, November 8, 1947).
F. Z. S. Peregrino, editor of the South African Spectator newspaper in Cape Town, who died two years before the arrival of his compatriot, would no doubt have been pleased yet envious of such great acclamation for his fellow countryman coming from practically all the major figures of the New African intelligentsia.
source:http://pzacad.pitzer.edu/NAM/newafrre/writers/aggrey/aggreyS.htm


James Aggrey 
James Aggrey 
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 AGGREY JAMES (1875-1927) 

intellectual and missionary Ghanaian Aggrey labored for the Development of Education in Africa and influenced by his thinking several important men in the history of Africa.

Kwegyir James Emmanuel Aggrey was born on 18 October 1875 to Anamabu, a village in the Gold Coast (later Ghana). He is the son of Kodwo Kwegyir (born in 1816) who is an adviser and spokesman Amonu IV leader Anamabu. His mother is the daughter of healer and sees his son for a menanr education for a career as a medical doctor.Aggrey is cradled stories recounting the war and military adventures of his father, but destine to a university career. At the age of 9, he already has a vision of what will be its future: "I'll spokesman of my country, Africa, My Africa." In June 1883, Aggrey was baptized and received his Christian name, James.He enters a Methodist school where his teachers detect in him an exceptional student. His thirst for knowledge is high and interest is both in Latin and in the Greek, mathematics or science. Over the years, the thirst of Aggrey instruction surpasses educational opportunities that can offer educational institutions of the Goldcoast.
 The path of the Phelps-Stokes Commission on Education in Africa 
The path of the Phelps-Stokes Commission on Education in Africa 
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Fate knocking at the door in 1898 when John Bryan Small, bishop of "the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church" goes to Gold Coast to search for educated youth who will be trained in the United States, then return to the Gold Coast as missionaries serving the Methodist branch.Aggrey therefore embarked for the United States July 10, 1898. He moved to North Carolina and continued his studies at Livingstone College. Aggrey is interested in everything: chemistry, physics, logic, economics, political science ... In May 1902, he finished top of his class and received three academic awards. Aggrey is fluent in English, French, German, fluent in ancient Greek and modern ... as well as Latin. In November 1903, he was ordained pastor of the African Methodist Zion Church in Salisbury. There he met an African-American, Rose Douglas became his wife two years later in 1905. Four children were born of this union. Meanwhile, Aggrey began teaching at Livingston College. In May 1912, after completing his doctoral dissertations coming to crown his curriculum Aggrey receives a master and a doctorate in theology issued by the "Hood Theological Seminary." He also obtained a doctorate in 1914 with honors in osteopathy. In November 1914, he accepted a position as pastor in a small town in North Carolina, but bored quickly. Every summer, from 1915 to 1917, Aggrey follows summer sessions at Columbia University where he enrolled with the intention of obtaining a doctorate again. A Columbia Aggrey is interested in sociology, psychology, Japanese language ... His intellectual abilities do not go unnoticed. In June 1920, a great opportunity presents itself to him when Professor Paul Monroe, a professor at the University of Columbia and board member of the Phelps-Stokes Foundation committee recommends its inclusion in the team of the commission will make a tour in Africa to assess the conditions for the improvement of education in Africa.
 
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A new chapter in the life of Aggrey. July 3, 1920, he sailed with other members of the Committee on the RMS Adriatic (passenger is first class and black alone). The ship stopped in London where Aggrey meeting August 5, 1920 Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg newly appointed Governor of the Gold Coast. August 24, Aggrey sailed to the continent for a long trip with the other member of the commission. They will visit 10 countries in the final where they will comment and analysis on education of men and women, the missionary school, ambitions and desires of the students, and many other items included in the final report. One of the highlights of our trip to Aggrey is off to Ghana where he had the opportunity to see his family (his mother, sisters, uncles, nephews ...) excited at the idea of seeing the "big- America ") brother. Throughout the year 1920, the Committee had visited countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gold Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria. In 1921 she visited including the Belgian Congo, Angola, South Africa ... During his stay in South Africa, Aggrey delivers a speech to a gathering of over a hundred people among which are a young African named Hastings Kamuzu Banda,who is impressed by Aggrey about the importance of education. Kamuzu Banda will then be the first president of Malawi. Kamuzu Banda is not the only major African to be influenced by the thought of Aggrey. In Nigeria, the young Nnamdi Azikiwe, who later became a successful businessman and a Nigerian politician leading will also be marked by the passage of Aggrey Nigeria. A third major African, Kwame Nkrumah will be influenced by the vision of Dr. Aggrey on education. It should be noted that Nkrumah as Kamuzu Banda and Nnamdi Azikiwe follow a path similar to that of Aggrey (initial training in their country of origin followed by studies in the United States).
In the direction of clockwise Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Kwame Nkrumah, James Aggrey and Nnamdi Azikiwe.  Aggrey influenced the thought of the future African statesmen 3 
In the direction of clockwise Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Kwame Nkrumah, James Aggrey and Nnamdi Azikiwe. Aggrey influenced the thought of the future African statesmen 3  

June 18, 1921, Dr. Aggrey and his colleagues leave Africa. On August 1, they're back in New York where they produce their report "Education in Africa, a study of west, south and equatorial africa african by the Education Committee, under the auspices of the phelps-Stokes fund foreign & Mission Societies of north america & Europe, NY ". phelps-Stokes fund 1922 Aggrey received many jobs given his resume and his work with the commission. But obtaining a PhD in sociology and economics at Columbia was a priority in his mind.In October 1922, Aggrey received a teaching degree and a master's degree, and finally in December 1923 had met the conditions necessary to obtain his thesis except one: the essay. But in 1924, Aggrey was solicited by the Phelps-Stokes commission for a new trip to Africa again. From January to June 1924, the new board went to Abyssinia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Nyasaland, Rhodesia, South Africa ... which leads to a second report: "Education in East-Africa, New-York, phelps Stokes Fund, 1925. " 

the Achimota College 
the Achimota College  

Meanwhile, the new governor of the Gold Coast, qu'Aggrey had the opportunity to meet in London a few years earlier had proposed the creation of a new school in Accra. A foundation stone was laid in 1924. The Achimota College (composed of a primary school, a secondary school and a university branch) would emerge. Aggrey was offered a place as Vice-Principal and enthusiastically accepted back build the school of his dreams in his home country.Aggrey returned to Ghana in 1924 with his wife and children. The Achimota School (also known as "Prince of Wales College") had become the lifeblood of Aggrey who had thrown himself body and soul into the project. Despite the obstacles, the critics, the bureaucracy of the British administration, Aggrey was not discouraged and continued along with the Reverend Fraser who worked with him to advance the construction of the school. Realizing that the school library was empty, Aggrey donated 2,500 books from his personal library to fill the void. He put himself out to the dough if necessary, washing windows, cleaning the floor ... On January 28, 1927, the Achimota School officially opened its doors with 60 students ready to attend classes, 250 others are on list waiting time construction is fully completed. Inquiries or admission flocked to countries like Uganda, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanganyika. More than 7,000 people (local notables, foctionnaires, governors ...) were present for the opening ceremony of the Achimota College. Aggrey's dream come true. Speaking, he uttered the words that would become the rallying cry of Achimota College students "let's go Eagles! Let's go Eagles! Eagles let's go!"
James Aggrey with members of his family during his visit to Ghana with the Phelps-Stokes Commission 
James Aggrey with members of his family during his visit to Ghana with the Phelps-Stokes Commission 
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As as the establishment had its operating rate, Aggrey felt the need to return to the United States, where he spent much of his life. His wife was also keen to return to live in the United States. On 3 May 1927, Aggrey then sailed for the United States. He stopped in Salisbury where he met old friends, then went to Columbia, where he gave a speech on July 21. He aims to finish the dissertation that would allow him to receive the doctorate postponed several times because of the stresses they had received. Aggrey tried to concentrate on his dissertation, but felt continually tired.Hospitalized, he died suddenly on July 30 at Harlem Hospital. 1 August, several thousand people attended the eulogy delivered by Dr. Anton Phelps Stokes, president of the Phelps-Stokes Foundation: "I think the qu'Aggrey service rendered to Africa bringing a better understanding between blacks and whites can be compared to what Booker T Washington was similarly in the United States. " About a thousand people, faculty and students of the Achimota College worshiped him on August 8. Among the future students of Achimota College, a young Ghanaian destined to have a great destiny, the future "Osagyefo" Kwame Nkrumah. 

 
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 QUOTES: 

"If someone says that Africans can not learn, do not let him think that your brother Aggrey learned something." "Only the best is good enough for Africa" ​​"The safest way to stagnate a people is to educate men and women neglect. If you educate a man you simply educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a whole family. " "We are taught to think we are chickens. And we truly believe to be the chickens that we are eagles. Expand your wings and fly! And never settle for the crumbs that they throw you. "





MEET & JAMES BANDA KAMUZU Kwegyir AGGREY :

In April 1921, South, Hastings Kamuzu Banda then aged 23 meeting Africa Aggrey who is passing as a member of the Phelps-Stokes Commission:. "Aggrey's eyes seemed to ask about me He spoke to me ... he spoke of leadership and honesty that should be present in any action (...) For the African in attendance, he said he had to work hard, very hard indeed to succeed, but that we could and should succeed for the future of Africa. A number of women were present in the audience. He assured them that they were not only mothers with children, but the mothers of Africa and there would come a time when they would have great political importance and influence in Africa. I was in a trance, watching and listening. It was like a black prophet sent by God and I had the feeling that I had to remember every word (...) It was certainly the most amazing man I have ever met. August 25, 1925, Kamuzu Banda arrives in New York and met his Aggrey off the boat. After past the formalities of landing, two people came to me the second one has reached out to me and told me. "young man, I saw you run down the ladder and I wanted to greet a African brother. My name is James Kwegyir Aggrey, Cote d'Or. "I was too stunned to speak When I found the word, I stammered:." I saw you make a speech in Johannesburg a few years ago . "Dr. Aggrey laughed and asked:" I have spoken well, "I told him that I felt he was talking directly to me when he spoke at the time about the importance of? education, honesty, the place of women in the future of Africa ... He laughed and kissed me, adding that he had always wondered if people really listened to what and said he was glad that I heard (...) I was speechless because Dr. Aggrey was one of my idols since I saw him in Johannesburg. Dejà, just by the fact to meet him, my stay in the United States went beyond my expectations!
source:
http://www.grioo.com/info1408.html

               Dr Bangura on Aggrey
Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura identifies a model leader for the modern period.  Bangura is a professor of International Relations and a Researcher-In-Residence at the Center for Global Peace in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC.

What Afrika needs right now are more Aggreys!!!
'Only the best is good enough for Africa'
"My people of Africa, we were created in the image of God, but men have made us think that we are chickens, and we still think we are, but we are eagles.  Stretch forth your wings and fly!  Don't be content with the food of Chickens" - Dr J E Kwegyir Aggrey.  This tribute for Black History Month was written by Prof Felix I. D. Konotey-Ahulu, the Dr Kwegyir Aggrey Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

"I am proud of my colour, whoever is not proud of his colour is not fit to live."  That was Dr James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey (or "Aggrey of Africa" but he was an early 20th century  phenomenon.

I first heard of his name from my father many decades ago.  Aggrey was born a mere 15 miles away from Cape Coast, at Anomabu in Ghana, on 18 October 1875 (exactly 129 years ago this month).  His father was Prince Kodwo Kwegyir, chief linguist in the court of King Amonu V of Anomabu, and his mother, Abena Andua, was a princess of Ajumako.

At 22, Aggrey left for the USA to pursue further studies.  Racial prejudice, known then as the "Colour Bar", was at its worst, and he went to the "Negro" Colleges.  The Americans were surprised at his knowledge of English.  A Mr H.E.C. Bryant was known to remark: "He is dark as dark, but very few in America can use English as he can."

Aggrey took his Masters in 1912, and was soon awarded a Doctorate of Divinity by the Hood Theological Seminary.  His sermons amazed white and black Americans alike.  He was happily married to Rosebud Douglas, and African-American, with whom he had two girls and two boys, the last born, called Orison Rudolph Guggisberg Aggrey, became a diplomat in the US Foreign Service.  One American lady, Miss Caroline Phelps-Stokes, in her Will dated 1909, bequeathed $1m (a huge sum in those days) to trustees to be used mainly on "the education of Negroes, both in Africa and the United States, North American Indians and needy and deserving white students".  Commissioners were appointed to do the ground work, and Aggrey was included among the all-white members.  This enabled him to return to tour Africa twice in four years.

Wherever he went, he was in demand to speak, advise, or preach.  He found the "Colour Bar" as vicious on his continent as in the USA, but he was remarkably equipped to deal with it.  In Belgian Congo, the governor left him out when he invited members of the Commission to dinner!  In Angola, when Aggrey saw the treatment of the Portuguese masters to labourers in the forced labour gang, he wept.

In South Africa alone, Aggrey addressed audiences 120  times.  On one occasion when the hall was packed in Cape Town and Aggrey arrived, the white gate-keeper refused to let him in.  Calmly, and in a dignified voice, Aggrey said:  "But it is me they are all gathered to hear."  Still the gate-keeper was recalcitrant, while others filed past him into the hall, until the white chairman of the meeting, becoming anxious, rushed out to look for Aggrey.  He discovered that he was being obstructed.  Aggrey was given a standing ovation.  But in Pretoria, when he was trying to board a train to lecture, he was pushed out.  Even so he was offered two professorships on the spot; one at Fort Hare, and the other at South Africa College.  People listened to him with amazement.

Before the second Phelps-Stokes Commission tour of Africa, Aggrey lectured both in USA and Canada.  His extempore lectures were followed by a series of questions, and once a Dutch South African minister shed tears of shame at the horrors of the race problem.  It was during a lecture in Canada that Aggrey made one of his great statements:  "Only the best is good enough for Africa."

In January 1924, Aggrey sailed from New York for England to joined the Second Phelps-Stokes Commission to go to the places in Africa where they had not visited before - Abyssinia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Nyasaland, Rhodesia, South Africa again, and the Gold Coast.  After hearing him lecture on the second visit to South Africa, a white man exclaimed:  "Damn his colour, the man is a saint."

Aggrey run out to be a great educationist,  just as he had wished when he was young .  By an amazing stroke of fortune, he met two great white men with whom he co-founded Achimota College in Accra, the Rev A.G.Fraser and Sir Gordon Guggisberg, the colonial governor.

Rev Fraser wanted the best for Africa, while Guggisberg, rare among colonial governors, recognised the potential of the black man, and set about building Takoradi Harbour, Korle Bu Hospital, and Achimota College (now School).  Rev Fraser was principal and Kwegyir Aggrey assistant vice-principal.  Apparently, the Colonial Office in London objected to making a black man vice-principal in a college which was originally called Prince of Wales College.

It was Aggrey who persuaded Governor Guggisberg that the college should be co-educational.  Aggrey said:  "The surest way to keep a people down is to educate the men and neglect the women.  If you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family."

He stressed that education should encourage "original thinking, research [and also] help to add to human knowledge... We in West Africa  have proved that we can get the classics, theology, philosophy.  We are past masters in jurisprudence and dialectics.  The question is, can we turn such knowledge into  the service of the common weal?"

Aggrey always held that the essential part of education was training the mind, encouraging good character and being original.  He believed in co-operation, which involved equality of opportunity.  "It means that each side has something to contribute - something more than brawn on one side, brain on the other -to the wellbeing of both."  Hence his famous piano keys illustration on the badge of Achimota School.  "You can play a tune of sorts on the black keys only, and you can play a tune of sorts on the white keys only, but for perfect harmony you must use both the black and the white keys," Aggrey said.

The co-operation he was calling for between whites and black was not that between an ass and its rider.  I always like to think of his piano keys illustration as depicting what he (black key) and Fraser and Guggisberg (white keys) managed to achieve in bringing Achimota School about.

Aggrey's humiliy too is worth mentioning, as when he took his fellow Fante, Rev Anaman, by surprise, by polishing Anaman's shoes when spent the weekend with him.

Aggrey's ambition for his continent - which he described as enigmatic, its shape on the map posing a question mark - is demonstrated in the following story he narrated:

"A certain man went through a forest seeking any bird he might find.  He caught a young bird, brought it home, put it among his fowls and ducks and turkeys, and gave it chicken's food to eat.  Five years later, a naturalist came to visit the man, and noticed  the bird.  He said to the owner: 'Look here, this is an eagle, not a chicken'.  'Yes, you may be right,' said the man, 'but I have trained it to be a chicken.  It is no longer an eagle, it is a chicken, even though it is enormous.'

'No', said the visitor, 'it is still an eagle; it has the heart of an eagle, and I shall make it soar high to the heavens'.  'No,' said its owner, 'it is now a chicken, and it will never fly'.

"They agreed to test it.  The naturalist picked up the bird, held it up, and said loudly: 'Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not down here.  Stretch forth thy wings and fly', and with that he hurled the bird up.  The eagle turned this way and that, and then looking down, saw the chickens eating, and came to join them.

"The owner said: 'I told you it is now a chicken'.  'No' said the man, 'this bird is an eagle.  I shall come back to prove this to you.  The exercise was repeated three times, with the same result.  The bird always came back to feed with the chickens.

"The naturalist came back again, chose a hill, and held the bird aloft, pointing it to the rising sun, and shouted: 'Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost not belong down here.  Thou dost belong to the sky; stretch forth thy wings and fly.'  The eagle looked round, tembled as if new life was filling it, and suddenly it stretched out its wings, and with the screech of an eagle, it mounted higher, and higher, and never returned.  It was really an eagle, though it had been kept and tamed like a chicken!

"My people of Africa,"  Aggrey continued, "we were created in the image of God, but men have made us think that we are chickens, and we still think we are, but we are eagles.  Stretch forth your wings and fly!  Don't  be content with the food of chickens."

After Achimota School was opened in 1927, Aggrey went to the USA, lecturing and preaching, and completing a book in Columbia University.  He fell ill on 30 July 1927 from pneumococcal meningitis in New York, and died very quickly, aged 52.  Great lamentations was made on both sides of the Atlantic.

Tributes included that of one of his best friends, Dr Jesse Jones.  The honorary pall-bearers who carried his coffin were all white citizens of Salisbury, USA - a real token of Aggrey's influence in the community in those days of "Colour Bar".

His ability to inspire Africans, especially Ghanians has never abated.  There is an Aggrey House in Achimota, an Aggrey Memorial Chapel, and the country has Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg lectures.  There is an Aggrey Annual Prize Examination at the University of Cape Coast, linked to the personal professorship graciously bestowed on me by the university.  Surely, that white man in South Africa was right:  "Damn his colour, the man is a saint".
source: http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa/ads/21.html

Black History Month Series: African Nationalism Dr James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey’s Contribution

This week I want to look at the contribution of Dr James Aggrey towards African Nationalism. Dr Aggrey was a champion of education in Africa and an exponent of inter-cultural and inter-racial unity. Aggrey was born at Anomabo in the former Gold Coast now Ghana on the 18th of October 1857. His father was a chief in Anomabo and he also worked as an agent for various merchants. In 1884 Aggrey’s family was converted to Christianity through Methodist missionaries in Ghana. Aggrey started attending the local Methodist school and for the five years that he was there, he showed an aptitude for learning. As was customary in those days for promising students, Aggrey was sent to go and live with a missionary family at the mission house in Cape Coast when he was 13 years old. After two years he left to become a teacher at Abura Dunkwa. In 1892 he returned to Cape Coast Methodist School to become an Assistant Teacher. He later passed the Teacher’s Certificate with distinction and also received the Gold Coast Legislative Council Prize for his studies. He later joined the Telegraph Corps of the British expeditionary force to Kumasi as an interpreter. He remained in this post until 1896 when he was appointed Headmaster of his old school. While Headmaster, he was also involved in the translation of the Bible into his language (Fante) as well as editor of Gold Coast Methodist Times.
In 1898 he was awarded a scholarship by the African American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) to study religion at the Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina in United States. This was so that he can continue effectively his missionary and educational activities in Ghana. He graduated from the College in 1902 with distinction gaining a BA degree in Religion. He did not immediately return to Ghana as he stayed working at the College, first as a registrar and later as a financial secretary and lecturer. He also continued studies at the Columbia University at Morningside Heights, New York. He later enrolled at the Hood Theological Seminary at Charlotte, North Carolina from where he graduated in 1912 with a Doctor of Divinity degree. While studying for his doctorate degree he was working part-time for AMEZ publishing house in Charlotte. In addition to working at AMEZ publishing house, he was ordained as an AMEZ minister for his devotion and calling. During the next few years he continued teaching at Livingstone College and was even considered for the position of president of the College in 1917. It was decided that he was not eligible because of his nationality.
In 1920 he became the only African member of a commission of inquiry into Education in Africa under the auspices of the Phelps-Stokes Funds. While serving on this commission he travelled to different places such as Britain, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, the Congo, Nigeria, Angola and South Africa. This gave him insight into the educational needs of Africa. He became so successful in his mission of African education that he was offered the position of Professor of Sociology at the College of Fort Hare in South Africa (this is one of the first Colleges in Africa). Aggrey turned down this position as he wanted to further his own studies and participate in the development of new educational facilities on the continent. The findings of his commission were published in 1922 and this led to the establishment of educational programmes by the British government in Africa. Mean while Aggrey returned to the States to further his education by gaining an MA degree and a Diploma in Education from Columbia University.
Another Phelps-Stokes Commission led him to investigate education in East and Southern Africa. This led him to travel to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Nyasaland and South Africa. This travels aided his international prestige as he became a kind of an ambassador of education in Africa.
In 1924 he travelled back to Ghana and helped establish a College of Higher Education in Accra. He became the Vice-Principal of this institution. He worked tirelessly until 1927 in helping African Nationalists in overcoming their suspicion as to the British government motives for setting up this College. He was able to articulate effectively the need for the establishment of higher education institutions for Africans in Africa. This College is the famous Achimota College which some have described as the Eaton of Africa. The emblem of the College is the symbol of Black and White of the piano keys. This was in reference to Aggrey’s comment about Black and White partnership that although the different coloured keys could played on their own, they had to play together to achieve perfect harmony. Shortly after the opening of the College, Aggrey travelled briefly to England and spoke at a conference on Africa held at High Leigh in Hertfordshire. Part of what he said was that, “No first class educated African wants to be a White man……………..Every educated Negro wants to be a first class Negro, not a third class European……….The superiority complex is doing  a tremendous mischief in Africa………..When I am worried, I go on my knees and I talk to God in my own language…………” He also travelled to the States to visit his family and complete his PHD thesis titled, “British Relations with Africa” at the Columbia University. After a brief period in the States he fell ill and died on the 30th July 1927 at Harlem Hospital. Dr James Aggrey will be remembered as one of the African Nationalists who saw the role of education as very crucial to the development of the continent. This was his lifelong passion which he faithfully executed.
http://israelolofinjana.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/black-history-month-series-african-nationalism-dr-james-emman-kwegyir-aggreys-contribution/

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