Doris E. Saunders

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Doris E. Saunders
Born Doris Elaine Evans
(1921-08-08)August 8, 1921
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Died March 24, 2014(2014-03-24) (aged 92)
Jackson, Mississippi
Education Northwestern University
Roosevelt University
Boston University
Vanderbilt University
Notable credit(s) Black Society
The Day They Marched
The Kennedy Years and the Negro
Negro Handbook
Kith and Kin: Focus on Families
Special Moments in African-American History, 1955-1996: The Photographs of Moneta Sleet, Jr.

Doris E. Saunders (August 8, 1921 – March 24, 2014) was an American librarian, author, editor, businesswoman, and professor of Journalism.[1][2] She started her career as Johnson Publishing Company librarian and then became head of the Johnson Publishing Company Books Division. Later in life, Saunders founded Ancestor Hunting, a genealogy research company, and wrote its publication, "Kith and Kin: Focus on Families." She was also Professor of Journalism and Chairwoman of the Department of Mass Communication at Jackson State University. After her retirement from Jackson State, Saunders continued to work with the Books Division at Johnson Publishing.


Early years and education[edit]

Saunders was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Thelma Rice Evans and John Alvesta Stewart Evans. She attended Englewood High School in Chicago from 1934 to 1938. Her father died in 1935. After his death, Saunders and her family moved in with her maternal grandmother and step-grandfather on South Lafayette Avenue.

Saunders entered Northwestern University in 1938 and remained until 1940. She then pursued studies at Central YMCA College in Chicago (now Roosevelt University) from 1940 to 1941 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Also in 1941, she entered the Chicago Public Library Training Class and completed the course of study and practice in 1942. In May 1942, she became a Junior Library Assistant and shortly thereafter she passed the Civil Service examination for Senior Library Assistant. She was first assigned to the Book Selection Department, and later transferred to the Hill Branch Library, and then to the George M. Pullman Branch Library. While at Pullman, Saunders was appointed the first African American reference librarian to work in the Social Science and Business Division of the main library.[3]

In 1976, after Saunders’ children had completed college, she went to Boston University and completed a Master of Science in Journalism from the School of Public Communication and the Master of Arts in Afro-American Studies from the graduate school in one year. These degrees were awarded in 1977. From 1983 to 1984 she studied toward a Ph.D. in history at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. At the same time, she commuted to Chicago on weekends to continue work on the books in progress at Johnson Publishing.[4]

Saunders was involved in many organizations. She served as a board member of the Black Academy of Arts and letters, board member of the American Civil Liberties Union Illinois Chapter, member of the Chicago Leadership Resource Program, National Association of Media Women, Chicago Publicity Club, Alpha Gamma Pi Sorority, and Black Advisory Commission for the 1980 census in Washington, D.C.[5]

The Doris E. Saunders Papers are located at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature in Chicago, Illinois.

Johnson Publishing Company[edit]

In January 1949 Saunders wrote a letter to John H. Johnson, who had just purchased a building that he was renovating for Ebony magazine offices. She suggested that he establish a special library for his editorial and advertising staff and clients. Saunders envisioned the library would document African American experience in the United States. Saunders was quickly called in for an interview and on February 1, 1949 she became responsible for starting the library at Johnson Publishing Company.[6] She was promoted to the director of the company’s Book Publishing Division between 1960 and 1961.

During her time at Johnson Publishing, Saunders editing many books, including, The Day They Marched (1963) and The Kennedy Years and the Negro (1964). She compiled Negro Handbook (1966) and Special Moments in African-American History, 1955-1996: The Photographs of Moneta Sleet, Jr., in 1999.[7]

Ancestor Hunting[edit]

Saunders founded Ancestor Hunting with her children in 1982. The company focused on genealogical research and published the newsletter Kith and Kin: Focus on Families. Throughout the 1980s, Saunders traveled regularly to genealogy conventions to promote her business and publications. Her goal was to make genealogy accessible to all people, especially African-Americans.[8]

Jackson State University[edit]

Saunders began working at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi in January 1978 for a one-semester writer-in-residence position. In the same year, she left Johnson Publishing Company and accepted the position of Professor and Coordinator of Print Journalism at Jackson State University. She was Professor and Chair of the Department of Mass Communications at Jackson State University until retiring in 1991.[9]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Doris E. Saunders". Chicago Sun-Times. 30 March 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Doris Elaine Saunders 1921 - 2014 Obituary". A.A. Rayner & Sons. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Doris E. Saunders Papers, Chicago Public Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collections
  4. ^ Doris E. Saunders Papers, Chicago Public Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collections
  5. ^ Doris E. Saunders Papers, Chicago Public Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collections
  6. ^ "Paging Back Through the Black Press", Chicago Reader, May 14, 1988
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Ancestor Hunting: Making the Present Perfect," Baltimore Afro-American, May 14, 1985.,2780717
  9. ^