Author, Educator, Expert on African History
Dr. Jane J. Martin of Clark’s Summit, Pa., died peacefully April 14 at the Jewish Home of Eastern Pennsylvania in Scranton, Pa., after a long illness. She was 88.
Dr. Martin spent much of her life working in various capacities with Africans and Americans for the advancement of Africans. Her first African experience was in Liberia in 1961, when she worked with Liberian teachers and the Ministry of Education as a member of Operation Crossroads Africa.
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Dr. Martin received her Ph.D. in African History from Boston University.
Her research in Liberia focused on the complex interactions among the Glebo people of southeastern Liberia and their neighbors. In Nigeria, she continued this research with the Liberian diaspora, especially in Calabar. She collaborated with several Liberian scholars, including Jangagba Johnson, Bai T. Moore, Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman, Zamba Liberty, and Amos Sawyer.
She taught African History at various institutions of higher learning in the United States as well as at the University of Liberia and the University of Calabar in Nigeria. Students remember her teaching “Introduction to Social Science.” From 1984 to 1989, Dr. Martin was executive director of the U.S. Educational and Cultural Foundation in Liberia, a binational Fulbright commission, administering graduate scholarships for many Liberians. In the 1990s, as senior program officer at the African American Institute in New York City, she directed the Liberia Watch program as that country descended into a protracted civil war. She brought together African human rights groups, African women’s organizations, Liberian Americans and former Peace Corps Volunteers to stay up to date on conditions in the country and find ways to help the citizens. A longtime friend, Dr. John Singler of New York University, said, “Liberia Watch existed at a time when Liberians in the United States were afraid to interact with other Liberians whom they didn’t already know. Thanks to Jane’s guidance, Liberia Watch was a place where Liberians felt safe and could talk about what needed to be done for the country.”
After her retirement in 1997, she went with a non-profit called Friends of Liberia (FOL) as an official observer of the elections designed to end the hostilities. She joined the FOL Board of Trustees and served for fourteen years as an advisor to its post-war teacher training intervention.
As a member of the African Women and Peace Support Group, she was one of the authors of “Liberian Women Peacemakers: Fighting for the Right to Be Seen, Heard and Counted”, published in 2004.
Dr. Martin was also active in the partnership between Presbyterian churches of Ghana’s Brong-Ahafo region and the Presbytery of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. An appreciator of African art, she learned from and worked with curators and programs of African art in Boston, Monrovia, Liberia, and Calabar, Nigeria. She was a volunteer curator of African Art at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pa., where she developed its African art exhibit.
She was born in Scranton, PA on April 29,1931 to Elfric and Kathyrn Jackson Martin. She is survived by her cousin, Samantha Weaver of Clark’s Summit, PA, her brothers Richard of Connecticut and Peter of Florida, several nieces and nephews, and many colleagues, friends, and students. She was an active member of the choir at the Presbyterian church in Scranton. In Liberia she worshipped at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sinkor.
In noting Dr. Martin’s death, Dr. Janice Cooper commented that Africa and the world lost a special person. Jane Martin loved Liberia so passionately. She promoted Liberia’s art, culture, ways of life and democracy. During the war and after she used her position in international fora to ensure that Liberia was not forgotten. At the African American Institute she pushed for peace and promoted culture.
Another close friend and colleague, Dr. Jeanette Carter, commented that Jane’s enthusiasm for life and people and her unwavering commitment to human rights enabled her to reach out to diverse people. She was always upbeat and positive and saw good in everyone. The tragedy of her final illness is that it carried that enthusiasm and commitment and we are left with the memories of a rich life and personality.
She was also a very good friend of the Liberian Daily Observer. In 1984, she gave the keynote speech at the the graduation of members of the Liberian Observer staff who had completed a 6-month comprehensive english course conducted by two outstanding Liberian educators, Mrs. Ruth Lymas Reeves, wife of Z. Molley B. Reeves and an expert in English literature and herself an author of many text books used in Liberian schools beginning in the 1970s. The other person who conducted the course was Mrs.Tarr. In her speech, Dr. Martin admonished the Observer: “Go and cover Africa.”
A memorial service and memorial for Dr. Martin will be announced later.