“I acknowledge and swear to the spirits of our ancestors that I, Kojo-Achampong, will never disgrace you, my Ashanti people, or Black people, no matter where I go, or what I am called upon to do.” – Curtis James Morrow, (Kojo-Achampong), in My Sankofa
Kojo Acheampong was the name given by an Ashanti-Paramount chief to Curtis James Morrow during his adoption ceremony in Ghana. True to his pledge, Morrow has done anything, but “disgrace” Black people. Rather he has used his talents to create strong images of our blues, our music, and his life in America and Africa experienced as an artist, adventurer, and visionary. Indeed, he is a History Maker.
Author and jewelry maker Curtis “Kojo” Morrow was born March 27, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended elementary school at Doolittle, Douglas and Phillips. When his family moved to Michigan, Morrow, on his seventeenth birthday asked for his mother’s consent to drop out of Buchanan High School and to join the U.S. Army. While training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Morrow learned of the escalating conflict in Korea and volunteered for service.
Morrow was sent to Korea and was assigned to the Army’s last all-black unit, the 24th Regiment Combat Team, known as the Buffalo Soldiers. Wounded twice, Morrow received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star for heroism, the Combat Infantry Badge and four Battle Stars. After Korea, he spent two years as a paratrooper in Japan, before being honorably discharged in 1954. At Chicago’s American Academy of Art, from 1957 to 1959, Guy Nalls mentored Morrow in painting. Moving to New York in the early 1960s, Morrow was part a group of black artists and intellectuals who became disillusioned with America and drawn to Africa. In 1965 he left for Ghana with less than $300 in his pocket. – The History Maker
In his book, My Sankofa, Morrow gives vivid detail about his journey and immersion into the life and the culture of Ghana. His mass collection of work reflects his global adventures as well as his insight into Black life experience.
I asked Mr. Morrow about his inspiration for this image, and he said, “Either my niece or cousin was waiting for a date.” He caught the image by film and painted it. “I still have that one in my gallery.” When asked about all the women as subjects, he said, “I love women! Without them, I wouldn’t want to be here. Men have their preference; I prefer Black women.”
I was curious about the origin of the Albino painting. Morrow said, “During my stay in Agogo, I used to see an Albino girl occasionally. She was the only Albino there. She wasn’t out in the daylight much because Albinos are sensitive to the sun…Anyway, when I returned to visit in 2007, I saw this scene in a classroom,” which inspired Morrow to do the painting.
At 84 years young, Morrow is still writing, blogging, and has a gallery in his home. “I sell most of my work online.” I asked him about the word “Beginnings” and how it resonated with him. He answered, “I think of the beginning of me!” He just completed a vibrant TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO SHOULDERS, I STOOD: Thank you. & RIP.
Having made fast friends, upon the close of our conversation, I asked Mr. Morrow, “How should I address you? May I call you Curtis?” He answered “When were you born?” We both laughed, and he conceded to let me use “Curtis.” I also call him iconic.
-Curtis “Kojo” Morrow
Painter, jewelry maker, author, adventurer. In addition to his art and jewelry, Morrow has published The Return of the African-American, detailing his journey of self-discovery to Africa. His second book, What’s a Commie Ever Done to Black People?, details his experiences in Korea and explores what it is like to fight as a United States soldier for other people’s “freedom” while suffering from racial discrimination in that same army. More recently, Morrow has been working on an illustrated children’s book based on African mythology.
Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Garden Spices Magazine