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Subscriber: null; date: 26 February 2017

Martin, Elmer P.

Abstract and Keywords

Elmer Perry Martin (1946–2001) is prominent for his contributions on African Americans families, history, and culture both in the academy as a professor and co-author and with the general public as the creator/founder/manager along with his wife, Dr. Joanna Martin, of the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Inc.

Keywords: Elmer P. Martin, African American families, Blacks in Wax Museum

Elmer Perry Martin, Jr., a professor of sociology and social work, was a native of Missouri who was raised by his grandmother. He graduated from high school in 1964. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology at Lincoln University in 1968 and received his Master’s degree from the Atlanta University School of Social Work in 1971. His PhD was attained in social welfare from Case Western Reserve University in 1975. He was divorced from Annie White Martin, and married Dr. Joanna Martin in 1972.

Professor Martin taught at Morehouse College and Case Western Reserve University. In 1977, he was hired as an assistant professor at Morgan State University and, later, was promoted to full professor and chairman of its Department of Social Work. Dr. Martin and his wife, Dr. Joanna Martin, are co-author of four books: The Black Extended Family (1978), Social Work, and the Black Experience (1995), The Helping Tradition in the Black Family and Community (1985), and Spirituality and the Black Helping Tradition in Social Work (2002), published after his death. He held memberships in the National Association of Black Social Workers and Council of Sages for the Academy for African Centered Social Work.

As an educational visionary, Professor Martin, along with Dr. Joanna Martin, who has doctoral degree in education, used some of their personal savings along with contributions from the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland to create the nation’s first museum dedicated to educate and showcase big and small contributions of Blacks: the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Inc. It opened on July 9, 1983, in a storefront on West Saratoga Street in Baltimore. Dr. Johanna Martin is quoted as saying: “We want to look at the contradiction of a slave ship named Friendship or Holy Mary or John the Baptist, these were death ships where cruelty and heinous crimes took place. There was that idea that it negated all that through the names (of the ships).” The couple began with four or five wax figures, which they exhibited throughout the community as a traveling exhibit before purchasing the storefront. Today, the museum exhibits figures such as Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad, retired Army General Colin L. Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the controversial scene of a man being lynched. It has grown since its opening over 25 years ago and will soon cover an entire city block. Despite strong encouragement to do otherwise, the Martins insisted that the museum remain in the community. The museum is in several rowhouses and a former fire station in the 1600 block of E. North Avenue and attracts about 275,000 visitors annually.

Dr. Martin passed away at the age of 54 on Thursday, June 14, 2001, after suffering a heart attack while conducting research in Egypt. He and his wife were on a boat trip on the Nile River when it occurred. He was applauded as a “genial giant” who turned his vision of educating the public and especially children about black history and culture into a reality. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, Bettina M. Wilson of Baltimore and Lisa Ann Martin of St. Louis. The Elmer P. Martin Endowment Fund has been established to fund research on African American ancestry and historical facts to continue the legacy created by Dr. Martin to improve racial relations and dismantle the myths of racial inferiority.