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Jane Martin Papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: BMC-Jane-Martin

Scope and Contents

This collection contains a wide variety of materials relating to Jane Martins professional and personal life. It mostly contains documents, copies, articles, letters, and other professional correspondence and records. These materials document Martin’s professional work, academic interests, and personal friends and relationships. Nearly all of the material relates to Africa and Liberia, which was the focus on Martin’s career and her home for many years. The collection also contains a series of diaries Martin wrote while traveling and living in Africa, as well as a series of photographs she took in Africa.

Series I contains Martin’s personal records. Included here are some financial documents, her last will and testament, some personal correspondence, and other personal matters such as insurance or money orders. This material is very helpful for biographic information on Martin. Included as well are two resumes and one personal narrative, written in the 1970s and 1990s. These are valuable resources for tracking Martin’s career and placing the broader relevance of much of the other documentation contained in the collection.

Series II is the largest series in the collection, and contains all materials related to Martin’s professional and personal life during her career (roughly from 1968 to 1999). Included here are documents related to Martin’s teaching career, such as syllabi, teaching statements, letters, research, articles, and copies of applications. Original research is also in this series, in the form of copies of articles, correspondence with scholars, bound reports and documents, interview, as well as some of Martin’s own talks and articles. So much of Martin’s teaching and academic work overlap, it is difficult to separate them. Her research interests were diverse. Martin collected material on the Kru tribe, on specific people, on organizations like youth groups, on women and their roles in education and society, and on governmental or non-profit groups in Africa. Martin’s correspondence with friends and colleagues often refer to her work, and most of her letters can be found here. Additionally, Martin was interested in and wrote about major changes that were occuring in Africa at the time, most notably the First Liberian Civil War in 1989.

Martins career with the African-American Institute, and her work with other cross-cultural and education-supporting institutions is also contained in Series II. This includes interdepartmental Memos, press releases, and other correspondence about the Institute. Currently, this series is loosely arranged based on Martin’s own organization.

Series III contains Martin’s papers after her retirement from the African-American Institute in 1998 or 1999. After this, Martin’s work changed in terms of scope and tenor, but she remained very active. This collection contains her work with her local church, as well as other smaller non-profits. She was still very interested in highlighting female achievements in Africa. Also contained in this collection is many pages of printed emails, referencing current work in and around African topics that Martin remained committed to. Also in this series are a few research projects that spanned the somewhat arbitrary divide between these two series, including material on Edwin Gahie Hodge.

Series IV contains materials related to Martin’s interest in art. Along with these papers, Martin also donated over 100 art objects from Africa. Her interest in art stretches back to her time as a professor. The materials in this collection document Martin’s interests and materials, and the sorts of artwork and objects she researched. This series also contains documentation of Martin’s work with the Everhart Museum in Scranton, PA, where as a volunteer she helped them entirely re-interpret and re-curate their African Art collection. It is not always clear when materials relate to that project or to her own collection, and there is likely overlap between the two.

Series V contains Martin’s personal diaries in bound notebooks. These date sproadically from the 1972 until 2007, with most notebooks from the 1980s and a few are undated. They seem to be mostly trip-journals, and would likely be useful as historical records of activity in Liberia as well as for their biographical information.

Series VI contains Martin’s photographs. They are arranged by series and date, and are mostly from trips Martin took in the 1960s and 1990s. Some photos have labels on the verso. There is additional information in the itemized list of these objects.

Series VII contains Letters of Recommendation Martin wrote for collegues and students, mostly related to her work with the Fulbright Program. This series is located in the same box as Series I, but it is not open to the public.


  • Creation: 1931 - 2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1968 - 2008

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

This collection is open for research. Records containing personal or confidential student information may be used subject to the discretion of the president of the college.

Copyright and Rights Information

The Jane Martin Papers are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Biographical / Historical

Jane Jackson Martin (1931-2020) was born in Scranton PA. She received a B.A. in History in 1953, and an M.A. in European History in 1958, both from Bryn Mawr College. After receiving her MA, Martin taught history at the Dana Hall School, a private boarding school for girls from 1958 until 1963. She spent the summers of 1961 to 1963 in Liberia as a teacher for “Operation Crossroads,” a cultural exchange program and still operates today. Her interest in African History was sparked by this program, and around 1963 she enrolled in Boston University to get a PhD in African History.

Martin received her PhD in 1968. It was entitled “The Dual Legacy: Government Authority and Mission Influence Among the Glebo of Eastern Liberia.” This title gives hints to several of Martin’s interests at the time which she would pursue throughout her career, including government activity and programs, Mission programs and church work, as well as the Glebo and Kru people (The Glebo tribe is a subgroup of the Kru tribe, which Martin continued to engage with after her dissertation). Martin did not ever publish her dissertation, although she responded to correspondence about the project’s material throughout her career. In other words, it was known in the field.

After receiving her doctorate, Martin’s held several teaching and lecturing positions in Massachusetts between 1968 and 1971. In 1972 she was hired as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Liberia. She would hold this position until 1976, when she took a similar job at the University of Calabar, Nigeria, which she held until 1980. From 1972 until 1980, Martin lived in Africa, and taught history at two African Universities. Her papers demonstrate a lot of thinking about how to teach history and what to teach, as well as research work in the form of interviews and primary documents and notes that she undertook during this period.

Between 1980 and 1984, it is a little unclear where Martin spent time. We know she returned to the US for a time, and spent a year working at Boston University as well as a year as an “Educational Consultant” at the African Art Museum in Tenafly, NJ. There is likely more information on this period in Martin’s letters and papers.

From 1984 until 1989, Martin began working as the Executive Director of the Education and Cultural Foundation in Liberia. There, she administered the Fulbright Program and other related educational and cultural exchanges between the US and Liberia. It seems like a major part of her work during this period was to support Liberian research and history. There are letters and exchanges of materials, as well as several letters of recommendation for scholars she met through the program.

In 1989, a civil war broke out in Liberia, and Martin (along with most other Americans) was forced to flee. However, she continued working on educational and cultural initiatives in Africa through the African-American Institute in New York, NY, a non-profit that supports higher education initiatives for African students in their home-countries (rather than the Fulbright which often sent them abroad). While at AAI, Martin developed and monitored programs and grants towards this mission. She was particularly focused on empowering women in these programs. AAI still operates today.

Martin retired from AAI around 1999, but remained extremely active for the next decade. She moved back to Scranton, purchased a house, and began volunteering. She worked most robustly at the Everhart Museum, a small encyclopedic museum in Scranton. Here, Martin was able to put her knowledge of African Art to use (She had taught courses on African Art in the past, and clearly fostered an interest in it during her time abroad) as the museum entirely re-imagined their collection in that field. Martin also continued to run smaller local programs, volunteered to help empower women through NGOs or donations/fundraisers, and worked with her local church on donations and visits. The density of Martin’s papers and related volunteer work begin to slow down around 2008 due to her declining health.

Throughout her life, Martin traveled extensively and had many close friends. It seems that she never married or had children, but purely based on the density and length of her correspondence with friends, she clearly had a strong international community. Her papers further demonstrate sustained yet varied interests throughout her career. She researched and took notes on a huge range of topics over several decades, making it difficult to produce a tidy narrative of her work.


12 linear ft. (10 boxes total)

Language of Materials



This collection contains papers related to Jane Martin’s personal, professional, and academic life (c. 1968-2008). Martin held a PhD in African History, and focused most of her life and career around Liberia. Her life as an academic and professional who lived and worked in both Africa and the US often intersected with her personal correspondence and records, and the archive reflects those overlaps. Martin’s research into specific tribes, people, and movements in Africa would be useful as primary and secondary records of history on the continent. Her records of syllabi and teaching philosophies chart out American influence on higher education in Liberia and Nigeria where she worked. Documents here also show her work with several institutions where she supported educational programs. Papers, research, and correspondence document her longstanding interest in art and objects in Liberia and her work with the Everhart Museum in Scranton, PA. This collection would be an excellent resource for those working on the history of Western-sponsored institutions and education in Africa, as well as the history of Liberia. Her documentation on African Art might also illuminate the objects she donated that are in the Art and Artifact collection.

Related Materials

Jane Martin papers were acquired along with numerous objects house in Special Collections Art and Artifacts:

Jane Martin Papers
In Progress
Elliot Krasnopoler
May 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Bryn Mawr College Library

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