A Liberian life: Memoir of an academic and former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs

An account of the author’s triple careers in academia, and services to two distinct governments of Liberia – William R. Tolbert’s and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s (consultant). Situated between the crisis years of the True Whig Party (TWP) regime and the hopeful years of the first post-civil war government stand more than three decades of teaching, research and public intellectual engagement. More than an impressionistic account, the author employs a rich repertoire of unpublished documents that include his personal cabinet notes and a wide range of government papers. His personal research papers acquired from archival research and interviews over the years supplement these. It is this rich background material that enables the telling of a fascinating story of the tensions within the TWP regime on the eve of the bloody 1980 coup, and in the process, paints enlightening portraits of such key players as Tolbert and his finance minister, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, among a host of others. Included as well are some specifics of the 1979 “rice riots” and its impact on the politics of change. Discoveries are also unearthed about the author’s role in racially integrating and internationalizing an American Episcopal/Anglican University in rural Tennessee. Among the questions explained are: Who was President Tolbert? What sort of finance minister to Tolbert was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? Who was C. Cecil Dennis? Who was Jackson Fiah Doe? Who was Bacchus Matthews? How did the forces for change interact with those of the status quo in the 1970s? What were some of the forces at play in the reform attempts in the early 2000s? All things considered, what are Liberia’s prospects going forward?
This book has been published by Brill as volume 41 in the Afrika-Studiecentrum Series.

Author(s) / editor(s)

D. Elwood Dunn

About the author(s) / editor(s)

D. Elwood Dunn is the Alfred Walter Negley Professor of Politics Emeritus, Sewanee, University of the South (a University of the Episcopal Church in Tennessee). Dunn published widely on Liberia. Before Sewanee, he served in the government of Liberia, becoming the last Minister of State for Presidential Affairs during the First Republic.

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