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

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Queen Elizabeth II showed her anti-racism credentials when she sparked global headlines by dancing with Ghana’s president in 1961—while America was still facing segregation, a historian tells The Liberty Buzz.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leveled racism allegations at an unnamed royal who they said expressed concern about how dark baby Archie’s skin would be before he was born.

However, the couple were quick to rule out Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, as possible suspects.

While Philip, who left hospital after four weeks yesterday, has been accused of racism numerous times in the past, the queen herself has placed the Commonwealth at the heart of her role.

In 1961, in the height of the cold war, Britain and America feared Ghana would leave the Commonwealth and fall under the influence of the Soviet Union, U.K. newspaper The Times reported.

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

Up stepped the queen, then 35, on a mission to persuade President Kwame Nkrumah not to leave the partnership of nations she cherished.

During a visit to capital city Accra, the queen was photographed dancing happily with the Ghanaian leader at a time when black people in America were still denied the right to vote.

Robert Lacey, who charted Harry’s feud with Prince William in Battle of Brothers, told The Liberty Buzz Meghan’s racism allegations had not dented Britain’s belief in the Queen’s commitment to diversity.

He said: “Whatever the implications of alleged racism, nobody in their heart feels that’s true of the Queen herself.

“I remember when I was growing up in 1961, there was a photograph of the Queen dancing in the arms of President Nkrumah of Ghana.

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

“It showed a commitment to diversity that the Queen’s maintained throughout her life. You’ve seen the evidence.

“There’s just been so much testimony to it.”

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

The civil rights protesters were attempting to demonstrate how the 1960 Supreme Court ruling in Boynton v. Virginia, banning segregation on interstate buses, was not being enforced in parts of the American south.

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

On May 4, 1961, Ku Klux Klan members attacked one of the buses in Anniston, Alabama, throwing in a firebomb and then holding the doors shut.

Quoted on NPR, an extract of Raymond Arsenault’s Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice reads: “They were all lucky to be alive.

“Several members of the mob had pressed against the door screaming, ‘Burn them alive’ and ‘Fry the goddamn n******,’ and the Freedom Riders had been all but doomed until an exploding fuel tank convinced the mob that the whole bus was about to explode.”

As the racist mob retreated, the protesters were able to climb to freedom, engulfed in smoke.

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

He said: “A man could not have done it. Here is our president, being respected enough by the Queen of England for her to put her arms around him. She was fairly graceful.”

Professor Philip Murphy, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, told The Times the dance showed how the queen was not resistant to de-colonization and wanted a new relationship with countries that had been part of Britain’s empire.

He said: “There was a very warm personal dynamic between the Queen and Nkrumah and I think that has tremendous symbolic importance.

“It is showing that the Queen at least accepts the process of the ending of Empire and embraces something which is a multiracial, voluntary, friendly association of independent nations.”

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