Doris Adelaide Derby oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-26.
DD: Well, I mentioned that I was - my charge from Charles Sherrod was: we need to, you know, get - we need funds and we need this, uh - we need to, uh - they needed a vehicle, so the school bus. So, I put, uh - I had my little committee and I was organizing a big fundraising event at a church in, uh, Manhattan. So, I was told that, like, “Oh, it’d be great to have Bob Moses. He can come up and speak, and you can, you know, get contributions,” or something. So, that’s what we did.
And so, after - that was a great success - then Bob Moses asked me would I be willing to come to Mississippi to work in an adult literacy project that he was working on, um, pulling together as a, um, pilot project. And so, you know, at that point, I told him I really had some other things that I was going to do. I was teaching. I was, you know, happy doing what I was doing, working with SNCC in New York and with the artists, and continuing on, uh, meeting artists in my mission of getting images, and I was painting.
Um, so, he left and went back to Mississippi. And he called me a couple of times and said, you know, “Would you - we really need you. We think we’re going to get this grant for a year. And, um, we want to develop adult literacy materials in conjunction with SNCC’s voter registration efforts, developing materials that would, um, meet the needs of people when they go to register to vote or to vote.” And all kinds of outrageous requirements were made, so we wanted to see if we could gear the development of literacy materials to some of those things and also to some of the, uh, areas that adults needed writing to function and to give them a better life, such as knowing about credit and shopping and other things like that.
So, he called me a couple of times, and I said, “No.” I really didn’t want to go. I still had it in my mind that I would go off for my master’s in anthropology and pursuing - I was really interested in African influences in many ways, uh, in other places, so, for example, in India, African influences in Mexico, as well as definitely in the United States, and in the South particularly.
But when I - that spring, May, June, uh, when you had the [55:00] demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, and some other places, and you had the violence, you had the police bringing out the dogs, and the fire hoses, and so - these photographs, these vivid images of all of this violence - and, um, I was watching the news and I saw this come on, and I said, “Okay.” I got up and I told my parents, I said, “Look,” you know, “I’m going to go to Mississippi to work on this literacy project, because if the people there can continually - children and adults, they’re going there and just demonstrating, and they’re suffering like this, the least I can do is participate in this literacy project. I am a teacher. I’ve already been. I haven’t - you know, I’m committed to the struggle in many different facets.” And that’s what I did. So, I called Bob and I said, “Okay, I’ll go. I’ll go to Mississippi after the March on Washington.”
JB: Can we pause a second?