Dr. Doris Derby is a ten year veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, and was a working member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In April, 2010 she and other SNCC members (from across the country and internationally) gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of SNCC. Moreover, Dr. Derby is one of 52 contributors to the recently published book, Hands on the Freedom Plow- Personal Accounts of 52 Women in SNCC. She is a documentary photographer whose pictures have been exhibited throughout the country. Two of her photographs are in the “Hands” book.
For the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Derby was recorded in a five part docuseries in Time magazine (Time.com/time/One Dream) from Time Life’s new filmmaking unit and digital platform, in Time magazine’s "March Special - One Man, One March, One Dream." This interview included 16 other persons who played a role in the 1963 March on Washington. She was also interviewed on WSB-TV, Channel 2 Atlanta, for the March on Washington Anniversary and Commemorative Special Program, produced and aired the day before the anniversary date. In addition, Derby will be featured in a forthcoming documentary film on past and current March on Washington participants. This film is sponsored by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the interview will be conducted by college students, filmmaking interns based in Atlanta.
Derby’s contact with SNCC members started in 1961 when she and her fellow uptown Hunter College New York students met with student activists in the Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, North Carolina area, to gather first hand information about Civil Rights issues in the segregated south. One year later, Derby graduated from Hunter College in the field of Elementary school education and Cultural Anthropology and taught elementary school while volunteering with New York friends of SNCC.
Derby worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC in Albany, Georgia and in New York. In 1963, before the March on Washington, she was recruited to work in an exploratory Adult Literacy Project SNCC initiated at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi and as a SNCC organizer in Jackson, Mississippi. There she co-founded the Free Southern Theater(FST). From 1963 to 1972 she promoted the arts, and worked with SNCC projects, including the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO)), and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Derby was a teacher/teacher trainer in the first Head Start Program in the country, the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), in 1965.
From 1965 to 1972, Derby also worked for the Poor Peoples Corporation(PPC), and was an incorporator of the Liberty House Cooperative Marketing an arm of the PPC. As such, she was involved in the marketing, public relations, and training of these avenues. In 1967 she joined the team of Southern Media, Inc., a documentary photography/filmmaking group in Jackson, Mississippi. She also lectured and exhibited at Jackson State College on African Art and Culture.
Derby left Mississippi in 1972 and focused on African and African American Studies, of which, she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Illinois. She also worked in the University System of Wisconsin for ten years. In 1990, she joined the University System of Georgia at Georgia State University (GSU) as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Founding Director of the Office of African American Student Services and Programs (OAASS&P). Her department achievements included the retention and graduation of a vast number of African American students, and the enhancement of cultural/educational ties between African, Caribbean, Latin and African American students and the community at large. She also co-founded the Performing and Visual Arts Council (PVAC) at Georgia State University. At the end of 2012, Derby retired from Georgia State University after 22 years of service.
Derby has exhibited her photographs locally, regionally and nationally. Her photographs have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, in Chicago, Illinois the Bronx Museum of the Arts, in New York, and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Derby's exhibits have also been displayed in Atlanta, Georgia at the High Museum, the Hammonds House Museum, Spelman College, the Fulton County Southwest Arts Center,and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Other exhibits displayed in Atlanta were at Georgia State University in the Gallery Lounge and The Ernest G. Welch Gallery.
Derby’s work can be found in Polly Greenberg’s, The Devil Wears Slippery Shoes, 1990; Clarissa Myrick-Harris’s, “Behind the Scenes”, in Trailblazers and Torchbearer,1993; Deborah Willis’, Reflections in Black; A History of Black Photographers, 2000; The Nation’s Longest Struggle - Looking Back on the Modern Civil Rights Movement, D.C. Everest Oral History Project, 2013.
Derby lives in Atlanta with her husband, actor, Bob Banks. They are active leaders in their community and members of local and national organizations.
Ed. Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods. Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers 1941-1965. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. 71-83.