Ahmed Sekou Toure was born in Faranah, Guinea on 9 January 1922 to an aristocratic Sunni Muslim Mandinka family; his grandfather was Samori Ture, emperor of the Wassoulou Empire. Toure became a union organizer while working for the postal services, and he studied the works of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin while he was young. In 1945, he founded the Post and Telecommunication Workers' Union (SPTT), and he became the leader of the Democratic Party of Guinea in 1952. As a union organizer, Toure was one of the leaders of the Guinean nationalist movement, and he became the first president of Guinea on 2 October 1958. Guinea was the only one of France's colonies to reject the new French constitution in exchange for independence; the rest of France's colonies opted to remain a part of the French committee so that they could continue to receive economic and administrative aid.
Dictator of GuineaIn 1960, Toure declared that Guinea was now a one-party state ruled by his Democratic Party, and he held all power for the next 24 years. Toure nationalized foreign companies, centralized economic plans, and jailed and exiled opponents of his regime. Toure failed to institute meaningful democracy or free media, and his opponents either faced night visits by the secret police or detention camps if they spoke out against him.
From 1965 to 1975, Toure ended Guinea's associations with the government of France, but he re-established relations with France after his relations with the Soviet Union soured. His ties to France led to a few other African countries severing diplomatic relations with Guinea, although he was hailed as a hero of the African nationalist movement and a pioneer of African socialism. Toure offered Ghanaian leader Kwane Nkrumah asylum in Guinea after his 1966 overthrow, and he assisted PAIGC guerrillas in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, leading to Portugal launching a failed invasion of Guinea in 1970. Toure once saw the United States as an ally, as he supported John F. Kennedy's commitment to the Civil Rights movement, but relations soured after Kennedy's death, as the CIA opposed Toure's militant socialism. In 1978, Toure renounced Marxism and reestablished economic ties with the west as Guinea began to reconcile with the French government of Valery Giscard d'Estaing. In 1984, Toure died during heart surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States at the age of 62.