As remembered by SNCC Legacy Project (SLP)
March 31, 2022
SNCC Legacy Project is sad to announce the passing on March 28, 2022 in Atlanta of SNCC veteran Dr. Doris Adelaide Derby, who worked in Mississippi and the Southern civil rights movement for nine years.
Born 1939 and raised in Bronx, NY, she studied at Hunter College in New York City. While at Hunter she became involved with the student sit-ins in North Carolina. Upon graduating from Hunter in 1963, Doris traveled to the Atlanta SNCC office, and to the SNCC project in Albany Georgia.
Returning to New York to work as a teacher, Doris stayed involved with the New York SNCC office doing fundraising and other support work, and helped organize New York Artists for SNCC. After the March on Washington Doris relocated to Jackson, Mississippi and became a full-time SNCC Field Secretary. She stayed in Mississippi for nine years, during which she helped organize the Free Southern Theater, the Mississippi Folk Festival, and the Child Development Group of Mississippi. She also began documenting her work through photography.
In her essay in "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women of SNCC" Doris wrote: "In my work in the southern Freedom Movement from 1962 to 1972, sometimes I was in the ground troops, and sometimes I was in the leadership."
Doris went on to earn a Ph.D. in cultural and social anthropology.
She was director of Georgia State University's Office of African American Student Services and Programs and adjunct associate professor of anthropology. Her book: "Doris Derby, A Civil Rights Journey" (2021) features many of her movement photographs.
For more information see: Doris Derby on the SNCC Digital Gateway.
Video Rememberance, by Joyce
April 12, 2022
My name is Joyce Ladner. I want to express heartfelt condolences on behalf of the SNCC, or Student Nonvoilent Coordinating Committee, legacy project to Doris's husband, Robert Banks, her sister, other family, and many students and friends.
Doris became a SNCC field secretary in 1962 when she moved to Albany, Georgia to work in the civil rights movement with voter registration and adult literacy. A year later in 1963, she came to Mississippi. And that's when we became friends. Doris and others created adult literacy programs for blacks attempting to register to vote, for black people were routinely beaten and some were murdered for trying to register.
In a written exam, voter registrars required black people to interpret a section of the constitution or to describe the duties of a good citizen. On occasion, they asked how many bubbles are in a bar of soap, or how many grains of sand are in a quart jar.
Doris lived in a house across the street from Tougaloo College where I studied. Now Tougaloo was a safe Haven for civil rights workers. Doris's nearby neighbors home was shot into by the Ku Klux Klan and barely missed the baby in the crib. Yet through all this, she remained steadfast in the face of danger.
Doris was a civil rights Renaissance woman. She helped to create a food co-op, a sewing project that sold black dolls and other creations of black sharecroppers at a New York store called Liberty House that she had also co- founded. She helped to create Headstart. And of course, she captured her timeless photographs of the Mississippi people. Finally, Doris was a long distance runner. She stayed in Mississippi for a long 10 years. Today, we celebrate our SNCC sister's life with great affection and appreciation for all she did and all she was.
As remembered by Wendell Paris
Sorry to hear of the passing of Doris Derby. Her work in establishing Liberty House Cooperatives and businesses owned and controlled by indigent populations of Mississippi will long be remembered.
Wishing God's Speed to her immediate and extended families,