How Queen Elizabeth II Danced With Ghana’s President Months After Civil Rights Bus Bomb

Queen Elizabeth II showed her anti-racism credentials when she made headlines around the world with Ghana’s president in 1961 – while America was still facing segregation, a historian told Newsweek.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle launched allegations of racism against an unnamed king who they said was concerned about how dark baby Archie’s skin would be before he was born.

However, the couple quickly ruled out Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, as possible suspects.

While Philip, who left the hospital after four weeks yesterday, has faced multiple racism charges in the past, the Queen herself has placed the Commonwealth at the center of her role.

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, Britain and America feared Ghana would leave the Commonwealth and fall under the influence of the Soviet Union, the Times reported.

Queen Elizabeth II and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) dance to a version of ‘High Life’ at a farewell ball at the State House in Accra. The 1961 dance marked a milestone and showed the queen’s commitment to the Commonwealth, the historian told Newsweek.
Central Press / Getty Images

The then 35-year-old Queen appeared to convince President Kwame Nkrumah not to abandon the partnership of nations she valued.

During a visit to the capital, Accra, the Queen was photographed dancing happily with the Ghanaian leader when blacks in America were still being denied the right to vote.

Robert Lacey, who recorded Harry’s feud with Prince William in the Battle of the Brothers, told Newsweek Meghan’s racism allegations that it hadn’t undermined Britain’s belief in the Queen’s commitment to diversity.

He said: “Whatever the implications of the alleged racism, no one in her heart believes this is true of the Queen herself.

“I remember growing up in 1961 there was a photo of the queen dancing in the arms of President Nkrumah of Ghana.

“There was shock horror around the world, not least in the still separated United States, which is now pointing the finger at Great Britain.

“It showed a commitment to diversity that the Queen has kept throughout her life. You saw the evidence.

“There was just so much testimony to it.”

It’s easy to underestimate the power of such a simple act 60 years later, but the November dance came just six months after members of the Ku Klux Klan set fire to a Freedom Riders bus.

Civil rights activists attempted to demonstrate how the 1960 Supreme Court ruling in Boynton v Virginia banning segregation on interstate buses was not enforced in parts of the American South.

So they took greyhound buses across state lines with black and white people sitting together knowing they were at risk of attack, NPR reported.

On May 4, 1961, members of the Ku Klux Klan attacked one of the buses in Anniston, Alabama, dropped a fire bomb on it, and then kept the doors closed.

An excerpt from Raymond Arsenault’s Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice quoted on NPR reads: “They were all fortunate enough to be alive.

“Several members of the mob had pushed themselves against the door screaming and ‘Burn them alive’ and ‘Fry the goddamn n ******’, and the Freedom Riders were all but doomed until a fuel tank exploded the mob convinced of it The whole bus was about to explode. “

When the racist mob withdrew, the demonstrators were wrapped in smoke and clambered to freedom.

Ghanaian historian Nat Nunoo Amarteifio told the 2018 documentary The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story how Elizabeth’s dance showed the respect she had for Nkrumah.

He said, “A man couldn’t have done it. Here is our President, so respected by the Queen of England that she puts her arms around him. She was quite graceful.”

Professor Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, told The Times that the dance had shown that the queen was not resistant to decolonization and wanted a new relationship with countries that were part of the British Empire.

He said, “There was a very warm personal dynamic between the Queen and Nkrumah, and I think that has enormous symbolic significance.

“It shows that the Queen at least accepts the process of ending the empire and welcomes what is a multiracial, voluntary, amicable association of independent nations.”

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