During the 1960s, when Nkrumah was president of Ghana, the first country in Africa to gain independence from British colonialism, Nkrumah and the governing Convention People’s Party embarked on a program of socialist development in Ghana and Pan-African unity throughout Africa. Much is written about Nkrumah’s selflessness, but what should be made clear here is that due to Nkrumah’s political work, the forces of reaction, led by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), British M16, the Israeli Mossad, and other imperialist intelligence forces, a concerted campaign was initiated in Ghana designed to overthrow Nkrumah’s government. Documented files illustrate clearly that the CIA was working with reactionary forces in Ghana as early as 1961 to build a network that would carry out the vicious deed. And, internationally, imperialism waged a carefully constructed campaign of misinformation designed to paint Nkrumah as corrupt and dictatorial. In February of 1966, this tragic work was successful when backward forces loyal to imperialism carried out a successful coup to overthrow Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party while Nkrumah was traveling to Vietnam to lead a delegation seeking to facilitate peace talks to end the U.S. – Vietnam war. The fact that after the coup, it became quite obvious that Nkrumah had none of the overseas bank accounts that his distractors accused him of (although while they were in power, they amassed numerous Swiss bank accounts full of Ghanaian cash), or the reality that during his term as president, not one execution for political reasons was carried out by his government. None of those truths generated the backlash against the forces who overthrew him as he genuinely hoped would occur. Of course, for those who know the history, Nkrumah never again returned to Ghana after the 1966 coup, remaining as co-president of Guinea with the Democratic Party of Guinea, and mutual revolutionary Pan-Africanist Sekou Ture. In 1972, Nkrumah died in Romania while seeking treatment for a multitude of illnesses that remain a mystery to this day.
What has not been widely discussed was the method in which Nkrumah’s critical writings i.e. the Handbook and Class Struggle, etc., were produced so that we have them today to help us define and direct our work to continue the legacy Nkrumah gave us. June Milne was a European woman from Australia who lived in London, England (Britain). She was skilled in literary matters as an author, editor, and eventually, publisher. When Ghana became independent, she, like thousands of people around the world, identified with the mission Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party embarked upon and she was able to meet Nkrumah and develop a relationship with him. That relationship led to her responding to his request (after his government was stolen) to create PANAF press. And, from that publishing entity, the latter books he produced were published and are still available through PANAF today.
Although I don’t know for sure, my guess is much of why this woman, who played a critical role in making Nkrumah’s works available, is rarely discussed is because the fact she was European doesn’t fit the narrative of many of the race oriented nationalists involved in Pan-African work. And, with the experiences we all have with systemic white supremacy, no one can really blame those folks who do their best to diminish any role any European plays in truly being an accomplice to our struggle for justice. I’ve always seen that issue much differently than most of the Africans I’ve engaged in with this struggle. I’ve always been quite sensitive to other people’s suffering. As a result, its always been important to me to never become the type of unfeeling person who represents the thousands of racist and inhuman encounters I’ve experienced in my life. I see my humanity clearly and as a result, I have no trouble seeing other people’s humanity. And, I also believe the greatest sin is being ungrateful. So, its within that spirit that I believe it warranted to discuss Ms. Milne’s role because like it or not, it was a critical one. I’m convinced this is how Nkrumah saw not only Ms. Milne, but humanity as a whole. I am much more interested in providing examples like Milne to the European masses to demonstrate to them what a real accomplice against our oppression actually does (for the most part) to support our struggle. This to me is a much more practical and useful display then trying to diminish anyone’s real contributions, no matter who they are. The Pan-African struggle will always be guided, directed, and participated in by African people . Yet, there have always been, and there will always be, some Europeans who decide to make contributions to us that we can definitely use.
It could be that many Pan-Africanists, Nkrumahists, Nkrumahist/Tureists, are unaware of this, but when the coup happened in February 1966, to overthrow Nkrumah’s government, Milne had just left Ghana days before the coup. She had been there, as she often was during Nkrumah’s presidency (and just as frequently as she traveled to Guinea-Conakry to see Nkrumah after the coup in Ghana) to edit his writings and prepare them for publishing. When Nkrumah left for his trip to Vietnam, he encouraged Milne to stay in Ghana and take a holiday. Wanting to get back to Britain and continue her work, she declined and had she not left, its quite possible we would have been robbed of “Challenge of the Congo” which was the absolute best book written about the imperialist and neo-colonialist sabotage in that country five years before (1960/61). When Milne left days before the coup, she had in her possession the finished draft of “Challenge” that she had just feverishly gone over with Nkrumah before his trip to Hanoi. Had she stayed in Ghana when the coup broke out, due to her close relationship with Nkrumah, she would have unquestionably been detained and all her notes seized. The neo-colonialists would have had the final draft of “Challenge” in their possession and like they did with Nkrumah’s draft on apartheid in Southern Africa, they certainly would have destroyed it.
As was mentioned, Milne continued to visit Nkrumah consistently once he relocated to Guinea after his government in Ghana was stolen. During their visits and other correspondence, Milne helped Nkrumah edit and publish what many consider to be his most influential books on PANAF – the Handbook and “Class Struggle in Africa.”
Nkrumah entrusted Milne to be his personal publisher and PANAF was the result of that relationship. And, based on the fact we have all his books today and his ideas influence the African revolution more now than they did when he was alive, Ms. Milne deserves recognition for her tireless work to ensure Nkrumah’s writing would be available for us as they are today. This doesn’t mean she is beyond criticism. In all her writings, whether its “The Conakry Years” the 1990 book of Nkrumah’s letters while being in Guinea from 1966 to 1972 or the biography on Nkrumah that Milne penned, she makes a point each time to publish things unflattering about Kwame Ture (formally Stokely Carmichael). Based on Nkrumah’s letters she published in “The Conakry Years” she made it appear as if Nkrumah saw Kwame Ture as immature and completely unfit to play a role in the African revolution. Of course, there are always moments between every teacher and student where the teacher loses patience with the student, but its important to remember that Kwame Ture at that time was a young man in his mid-twenties who was faced with unbelievable international pressure due to his standing as the primary spokesperson for the U.S. Black power movement. If Nkrumah had no confidence in him, he would not have ever invited Kwame Ture to move to Guinea-Conakry and become his political secretary. He would certainly not have given Kwame Ture the finished draft of the Handbook to read and he would not have invited Kwame Ture to be a building block in initiating the work to build the All African People’s Revolutionary Party.
Fortunately, another book of Nkrumah’s letters from Conakry was published a few years ago by a current Pan-African cadre/comrade Sister Doreatha Drummond MBalia, and this book contains letters not included in Milne’s 1990 version. In this second book, much more flattering letters about Kwame Ture were included which brings the question to mind why Milne chose to present such an unflattering image of Kwame Ture? And, in case more clarification was required, her bio on Nkrumah mentions Kwame Ture only once, to replay how much Nkrumah argued with Kwame Ture about his political immaturity. This is an unfortunate flaw to Milne’s otherwise good work in assisting Nkrumah on the publishing front. I can only guess, but based on the focus Milne has on Kwame Ture’s ideas, she seemed to have the impression that he was not fond of Europeans, or at least that he wasn’t interested in expending any energy towards them. Maybe, she felt he didn’t care for her relationship with Nkrumah. Still, its intellectually dishonest to dismiss Kwame Ture’s role in also assisting in developing Nkrumah’s work because Kwame Ture’s contributions in this regard cannot be diminished and Milne, who just died a few short years ago, certainly had to be aware of those contributions. She was not just a disconnected white editor/publisher. She had a strong understanding of African politics, taking ideologically developed positions in support of people like Sekou Ture, something that almost never happens in the publishing arena. So, I cannot dismiss her mistreatment of Kwame Ture as an accident. Its unfortunate, especially since as was stated earlier, one of the most essential features of any accomplice to a struggle for justice is to never center themselves in that struggle they are assisting and to understand that even if the people in that struggle dismiss them, there are historical reasons that explain that behavior and therefore, conscious people cannot take such things personal.
Still, Ms. Milne gets a measure of respect because without her work, we would probably not have the same access to Nkrumah and Sekou Ture that she has helped provide us. Access that we will continue to transmit into future generations so that the ideas these Pan-African giants provided can continue to be developed in ways that bring us closer to the freedom they envisioned for us and humanity.