Doris Adelaide Derby oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-26.
DD: Well, there were so many things, so many activities going on, and there was excitement. There was the mass meetings, and people were planning things, and, um, uh, you know, there was the training, uh, in nonviolent techniques for demonstrations, which I did participate in some. And, um, so, it really wasn’t - I wasn’t thinking so much about something happening to me. Uh, I mainly was interested in doing what I could do and what I was needed to do.
Now, when I grew up, um, my father and grandparents were very self-sufficient and had a lot of skills and it was like, “We do whatever we need to do.” Um, we grew our own food. We raised our chickens and ducks and, uh, fruit trees and flowers. And we painted the house when we needed to. My father had carpentry skills just as his father. He supplemented his income, which when he didn’t get an engineering job, he ended up working in the civil service, New York State civil service. And he would - he was a cabinetmaker in the evenings. And I used to, uh, go to the basement with him, and he showed me how to make things out of wood.
And I used the pieces of masonite that he had [45:00] left from his cabinet - that’s what I painted on. And, um, so, I was always recycling things, and that was part of my imagination, that I would make something out of something that I would pick up and I’d look and I’d think of what kind of design it had, or, um. And then, my mother taught me how to sew. My sister and I, we made our Easter outfits by the time we were in fifth and sixth grade. So, I was always very adaptable. I was traveling, so I was used to being in other places or staying with other people. We’d travel to our relatives’. We’d travel through the church to new places. Um, and I, especially, in my family, did that. And I just started thinking, you know, that was sort of my inheritance from my aunts and my grandparents.
JM: [Coughs] When you went back to New York, you did a lot of work, with others, to, um, really bring the New York SNCC office forward. Can you talk a little bit about that effort and how it connected then to the organizational effort for the March on Washington?
DD: Well, the, uh - that was ’62, ’63, especially. When I came back from Albany and, uh, I started teaching again, I knew that I had to do fundraising, so I connected with, uh, another group, Rae Brandstein - I can’t think of her group right now. I have some papers from that. And, uh, so, I - this was an interesting lady. She was, uh, a white lady. She was in a wheelchair. Somehow or other, and I’d have to look at some of the old documents, we got together. And she - she liked the project of, you know, finding - we wanted to, uh, be able to get a bus, a school bus - yeah, she had some kind of educational program. We wanted to get a school bus and fill it full of food, canned goods, clothing, and books. And so, we worked together on that project and her organization. And, at the same time, it expanded people that I knew that could help SNCC.