Doris Adelaide Derby oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-26.
Doris Derby: You’re quite welcome.
JM: Um, let me start today with a - I’d love to have you talk a little bit about, um, your childhood, your parents - I know that your great aunts were also very influential figures as you kind of came into yourself as a - as a young adult. And just reflect a little bit about what seems to have been a quite exceptional childhood in so many respects.
DD: Well, you know, I was thinking about, um, about my grandparents and, um, my relatives and, um, the atmosphere that they created as, uh, for - I think for all of my aunts and uncles and those of us as we grew up. My grandmother on my mother’s side, my maternal grandmother, um, she lived in Bangor, Maine. And, um, there was a - and I knew her. You know, we used to go visit during the holidays, during the summer. When I was growing up, we were very close in terms of our family. My mother came from a family of eleven children. And my grandmother was originally from Haiti in the Virgin Islands, and her husband, my grandfather, was from Virginia.
Now, interesting enough, I didn’t know about it, but I later found out that my grandmother and her oldest son was the - were original charter members of an NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] chapter founded in the 1920s. [Someone coughs] I didn’t know about that until I read the book that a historian wrote. It was called Black Bangor, the black community in the late 1800s and early, you know, 1920s, ’30s. Um, my grandfather on my mother’s side had a store. It was a, uh, in Bangor, Maine. He was a businessman. Everybody loved him, and loved — and his store, um, was called a “Bangor institution.”
On my father’s side, I have, um, grandparents that, um, were very active in the community. And, um, my paternal grandfather was a Boy Scout leader, just as my father was. I think that there’s a theme there in both sides of the family: hard work, determination, um, goals, and within the climate of some, uh, racism, but they took the route of working hard to overcome it through their initiatives. And, um, so, I think that that’s something that, you know, those are values that I inherited on both sides: strong family, strong community, uh, work hard, and, uh, you know, achieve - achievement for self, family, and community. And that’s what led me to also embrace the struggle, uh, in the South.
JM: Um-hmm. I’d like to hear a little bit more about the community - its fabric, the kinds of things that you were involved in [clears throat] as a young person, church, um, social service, um, school.