Celebrating the Life of Dr. Doris Adelaide Derby
To us at the ArtsXchange, Dr. Doris Derby was more than a photographer and activist — she was a part of our family. When we reopened our doors in our new neighborhood in 2019, Doris was one of the first East Point residents to support us. She was excited to have a community cultural center in what she considered her own backyard. She was a regular at our gallery events, along with her husband Bob, and always took the time to speak with the artists. She especially liked talking to the younger artists and expressing her appreciation for their work.
Doris supported us creatively, programmatically, financially, and, above all, with her presence. This year and last, with support from Doris and the Georgia Humanities Council, we initiated a six-part program with a focus on literacy and creative writing using her photography books. Her work inspired participants to create reflections and stories connecting her images from the Civil Rights Movement to the challenges we face as a country today.
Doris will forever be a part of our family. The last gift she blessed us with was for the planting of fruit trees and a seating area in our community garden. We hope you will come visit to sit and reflect on Doris’s immense love of nature and the countless lessons she taught us about art, service, and our social obligations to each other.
The ArtsXchange sends our love and condolences to Doris' family, friends, students, colleagues, and all who held her dear. Please celebrate her life with us as we share the many ways she impacted the ArtsXchange community.
Dr. Derby was a fervent supporter of the ArtsXchange, most recently as a part of the "Power of Words: When Poetry Meets Songs & Images" series that explored her civil rights work through the lens of literacy and culture.
See the links below to watch her Author Panel discussion from October 2021 and to read our blog about Dr. Derby, how a stop in Albany, Georgia propelled the Bronx native’s journey through the frontlines of racial justice in the South, and the connections folks in this series made from past to present.
We were also honored to present Dr. Derby with the 2021 Change Maker Award at the Ebon Dooley Art & Social Justice Awards, Dec. 5, 2021. Watch her acceptance speech in the video below.
When I was in elementary school, nothing in the history books had anything to do with telling me about my history,” Dr. Derby said in a 2020 interview with The Guardian's Tim Lewis. “I’d think: ‘Why aren’t black people being represented in these books? And stories, movies.’ We weren’t in them. But we were here.”
For years as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, she worked to document the lives of Black folks — from children on their walk to school in Mississippi to farm life in rural Louisiana to political conferences across the South. Dr. Derby's books of poetry and photographs tell the stories from every angle, ensuring that Black children, and Black people of all ages, will never feel unseen again.
See below to read about her bravery and dedication to community organizing in an article and photo galleries by The Guardian.
Farish Street, Jackson, Miss., late 1960s by Dr. Doris Derby
Workers in the Mississippi Delta, 1960s by Dr. Doris Derby
Through the lens of civil rights photographer Doris Derby - in pictures, by The Guardian, Feb. 1, 2020
Now is a continuation of then’: America’s civil rights era – in pictures, by The Guardian, Oct. 28, 2021
In an August 23, 2021 interview with American Theatre, Dr. Derby reflected on co-creating SNCC's Free Southern Theater. This gave SNCC a way to reach people culturally, to share the messages of Black identity, the importance of demanding our rights, and overcoming racism. Click below for the full article.