The Big Six were six leaders of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), the leading political party in the British colony of the Gold Coast. They were detained by the colonial authorities in 1948 following disturbances leading to the killing of three World War II veterans They are pictured on the front of the Ghana cedi notes.
Ebenezer Ako-Adjei – founding member of the UGCC
Edward Akufo-Addo – founding member of the UGCC and subsequently Chief Justice of Ghana and president of Ghana
Joseph Boakye Danquah – founding member of the UGCC
Kwame Nkrumah – later first prime minister and first president of Ghana
Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey – founding member of the UGCC
An organized boycott of European imports took place in January 1948. The aim was to get the foreign traders known as the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM) to reduce the prices of their goods. This was followed by a series of riots in early February 1948. The boycotts were scheduled to end on 28 February 1948, a day that has become significant in the history of Ghana. AWAM has become a term synonymous with cheating or profiteering in Ghana.
On 20 February 1948, Dr. Nkrumah and Dr. J. B. Danquah met and addressed World War IIveterans who had been agitating for their end-of-service benefits following World War II at the Palladium Cinema, Accra.These veterans had fought with the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force and had not been paid their gratuities on their return home.Nkrumah and Danquah both gave their support and encouraged the veterans in their protest over their post-war neglect.
Later on 28 February, what became known as the “Christiansborg Cross-Roads shooting” occurred. Some of the Second World War veterans marched to the Christiansborg Castle, the seat of the colonial government. They intended submitting a petition to the Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy about their poor conditions, unpaid war benefits and neglect. Police Superintendent Colin Imray, a British police officer, ordered the veterans to disperse but they refused. He then ordered his men to open fire on the unarmed soldiers and, when they refused, opened fire himself killing three of them, namely Sergeant Cornelius Frederick Adjetey, Private Odartey Lamptey and Corporal Attipoe.This led to another round of riots and looting in Accra, during which foreign (European and Asian) stores were looted. This went on for five days.
Arrest of theBigSix
On the same day, following these disturbances, the United GoldCoast Convention (UGCC) leaders sent a cable to the Secretary of State in London.
“…unless Colonial Government is changed and a new Government of the people and their Chiefs installed at the centre immediately, the conduct of masses now completely out of control with strikes threatened in Police quarters, and rank and file Police indifferent to orders of Officers, will continue and result in worse violent and irresponsible acts by uncontrolled people.
“Working Committee United Gold Coast Convention declare they are prepared and ready to take over interim Government. We ask in name of oppressed, inarticulate, misruled and misgoverned people and their Chiefs that Special Commissioner be sent out immediately to hand over Government to interim Government of Chief and People and to witness immediate calling of Constituent Assembly.”
They also blamed Sir Gerald Creasy (whom they called “Crazy Creasy”for the riots due to his handling of the country’s problems. The Riot Act was read on 1 March 1948. A Removal Order was issued by Sir Gerald for the arrest of the six leaders of the UGCC. They were held in the remote northern part of the Gold Coast following their arrests. A commission of enquiry chaired by Mr. Brian Otwerebemah, was set up to look into the riots. Other members of the Watson commission were Dr. Keith Murray, Mr. Andrew Dalgleish and Mr. E. G. Hanrott.
Following their incarceration, the nationalists have become known as the Big Six. Their popularity also increased.On 8 March 1948 some teachers and students demonstrated against the detention of the Big Six. The demonstrators were dismissed. On his release, Dr. Nkrumah set up a secondary school, Ghana National College, for the dismissed staff and students.