Monday, July 20, 2009

GSU educator’s photos show other side of Civil Rights Movement

Demonstrations, protests and sit-ins are images that typically come to mind when one thinks of the Civil Rights Movement.

But Doris Derby, director of African-American Student Services and Programs at Georgia State, shows other aspects of this turbulent time in our nation’s history through her photography in a new exhibit.

As an active member of the movement during the 1960s, Derby captured African-Americans working to reform health care, equalize the educational system, spark economic development and revitalize the art world.

Nearly 100 of her photographs will be on display over the next three months at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta in an exhibit titled, “Photo Griots: Doris Derby and Sue Ross.”
The exhibit will run through Sept. 13 at the museum, located at 503 Peoples St. in Atlanta.

“A lot of my photographs depict self-help activities,” Derby said. “African-Americans in the Civil Rights movement often lost their jobs when they registered to vote, so they started co-ops of several types. This is just one example of the grass root activities that established the foundation for what we take for granted today.”

Derby’s work also shines a light on African-American women during the civil rights movement, including everyday women and notable leaders such as Charlayne Hunter-Gault who integrated the University of Georgia, author Alice Walker and Dorothy Height, president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women.

Derby and co-exhibitor, Susan Ross, are members of Sistagraphy, an Atlanta-based collective of African-American women photographers.

The title of the exhibit, “Photo Griots,” comes from the African tradition of oral history and now relates to photographic history. Both women hope to tell the story of the African American community through their photographs. Derby chronicles 1960-1970 and Ross covers the 1980s, 1990s and today.

"I am primarily a people photographer, finding grace and dignity in the faces of our people," said Ross who is a photographer for the City of Atlanta mayor’s office and photographs National Black Art Council events.

Derby has previously exhibited her work at Georgia State as well as other venues. Her photos were included in the “Road to Freedom” exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta last spring and at several museums throughout the United States, including the Smithsonian.

Last summer, Derby also had an exhibit at Georgia State titled “Disappearing Black Neighborhoods” with images capturing the everyday life of those growing up in the segregated South of the 1960s.

“I was always interested in the depiction of African-American people in positive light, in full light,” Derby said. “This has been one of the things that I’ve done all my life, getting images of African-American people out for other people to see.”

The Department of African-American Student Services and Programs is in the Division of Student Affairs at Georgia State.

For more information on her current exhibit, visit:

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