Doris Derby

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Doris Derby
Nationality American
Known for Activist, Photographer

Doris Derby is an activist, documentary photographer and retired adjunct associate professor of anthropology at the Georgia State University. She was active in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, and her work discusses the themes of race and identity of African Americans. She was a working member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (S.N.C.C.), as well as co-founder of the Free Southern Theater, and the Founding Director of the Office of African American Student Services and Programs (O.A.A.S.S.P.). Her photography has been exhibited throughout the United States. Two of her photographs are in Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, to which she also contributed an essay about her experiences in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.[1] Derby lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, actor Bob Banks. They are active leaders in their community and members of local and national organizations.

Early Life and Education[edit]

Derby’s contact with S.N.C.C. members started in 1961, while she was a student at Hunter College in New York; she and fellow students met with student activists in the Raleigh/Greensboro/Durham area of North Carolina to gather first-hand information about Civil Rights issues in the segregated South. In 1962, Derby graduated from Hunter College in the fields of Elementary School Education and Cultural Anthropology, and taught elementary school while volunteering with New York friends of S.N.C.C.

Derby worked in Albany, New York City, and the state of Georgia. In 1963, before the March on Washington, she was recruited to work in the exploratory Adult Literacy Project S.N.C.C., which was initiated at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, and as a S.N.C.C. organizer in Jackson, Mississippi. While in Mississippi she also co-founded the Free Southern Theater (F.S.T.), and from 1963 to 1972 she promoted the arts and worked on S.N.C.C. projects, including the Council of Federated Organizations (C.O.F.O.), and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (M.F.D.P.). Dr. Derby was a teacher and teacher trainer in the first Head Start Program in the country, the Child Development Group of Mississippi (C.D.G.M.), in 1965.

From 1965 to 1972, Derby worked for the Poor Peoples Corporation (P.P.C.), and helped incorporate Liberty House Cooperative Marketing, an arm of the P.P.C. Derby was also involved in the marketing, public relations, and training of these groups. In 1967 she joined Southern Media, Inc., a documentary photography/film production group in Jackson, Mississippi. She lectured and exhibited at Jackson State College on African Art and Culture.

Further Education and Achievements[edit]

Derby left Mississippi in 1972 and focused on African and African-American Studies, for which she earned an M.A., as well as a 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 (G.S.U.) as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Founding Director of the Office of African-American Student Services and Programs (O.A.A.S.S.P.). Her department's achievements included the retention and graduation of a vast number of African-American students, as well as the enhancement of cultural and 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 (P.V.A.C.) 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 both locally and nationally. Her photographs have been shown at the Smithsonian Institution, 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. 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 the following: Polly Greenberg’s The Devil Has Slippery Shoes, 1990; Clarissa Myrick-Harris’s 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.


For the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, Derby was interviewed, along with 16 others who participated, for Time magazine's five-part documentary "March Special - One Man, One March, One Dream." She was also interviewed on W.S.B.-TV, Channel 2 Atlanta, for a segment shown on the anniversary, as well as a Commemorative Special Program that was aired the day before. In addition, Derby was featured in a documentary film about past and current March on Washington participants. This film was sponsored by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, with the interview being conducted by Atlanta-based film interns. In April 2010, Derby and other S.N.C.C. members gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of S.N.C.C.. Derby is one of the 52 contributors to the book Hands on the Freedom Plow - Personal Accounts of 52 Women in S.N.C.C.


  1. ^ Holsaert, Faith S., Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, and Dorothy M. Zellner (2010). Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (1st ed.). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. pp. 271, 436. ISBN 9780252035579.