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Biographies Unit Biographies

Kofi Annan 1938-
Former Secretary General of the United Nations

Kofi Annan (KOH fee AH nahn) grew up in western Africa's Gold Coast in the 1940s and 1950s. During that time, people in his country were trying to gain control of their government, which was ruled by Great Britain. The Gold Coast gained its independence in 1957. It formed part of the new nation of Ghana. Annan left his country to study in the United States in 1959. Here, he saw African Americans working to gain their civil rights. Their efforts reminded him of what he had seen in his own country.

Annan's experiences in Ghana and the United States made him want to help others gain equal rights and find justice. Annan worked for over 40 years at the United Nations. The United Nations is a group of people from around the world who work for peace and justice. From 1997 to 2006, Annan led the United Nations as Secretary General. Annan was the first black African to serve in this position. Under his leadership, the United Nations helped millions of people survive natural disasters, hunger, and war. In 2001, Annan and the United Nations won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

Comprehension Check

Why did Kofi Annan decide to work at the United Nations?

Critical Thinking

What effect did the independence of Ghana have on Kofi Annan's later life?