Like many American boys at the time, I was a “serious” stamp collector. The quotes are because I was enthusiastic, but I probably had nothing in my collection worth more than eighty cents. I remember going to a stamp show at one of the downtown Cleveland hotels where the big event was the release of stamps from a newly independent African country. The former Gold Coast was now Ghana.
There were already several independent nations which had shed their colonial mantles by that time, including Egypt and Sudan. But that was “before my time.” I was frantic to find everything I could about the new nation, with its heroic leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who called himself the “Osagyefo” (see below).. In English, that meant “The Redeemer.”
I had been someone weary of all the British colonial stamps with their profile of Queen Elizabeth II, who at that time was certainly the cutest monarch with which I was acquainted, but I was ready for some novelty.
It didn’t take long for me to be disabused of the Osagyefo. Right around then, Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser tried to rally the leaders of independent (and, presumably, soon to be independent) states to join his movement of non-aligned countries. As Nasser himself was leaning more and more toward the Communists (Oh Horrors!), it wasn’t long before I began to see him as a fellow traveler. Sure enough, after roiling the waters of West Africa for a few years with his increasingly authoritarian rule, he ended up in Romania, where he died in 1972.
Ghana was just the beginning of a rush to independence of former British colonies. After disillusionment with Nkrumah I became a bit more leery about wishing them well. But then I was only a twelve-year-old stamp collector. What did I know?