A Civil Rights Journey

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MACK, 2021. First edition.
Paperback with flaps, 168 pp., b/w illustrated, 215 x 285 mm. Photographs by Doris Derby. Text by. Design by Doris Derby, Constance Slaughter-Harvey. Morgan Crowcroft-Brown.

A Civil Rights Journey presents the astonishing archive of Dr Doris Derby: photographer, activist, and professor of anthropology. Active throughout the Civil Rights Movements of the mid twentieth century in the southern United States, particularly Mississippi, Derby acted as a photographer, organiser and teacher, making photographs of the intimate and human side of the everyday struggle for survival and human rights. She photographed both the organisation of political events, meetings, and funerals, alongside the literacy, co-operative and community theatre programmes, many of which she founded, and encountered much danger and tragedy along the way.

Here we see the speeches and protests that gave the movement its defining moments, as well as vital figures including Muhammad Ali, Alice Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Jesse Jackson. We also see classrooms and church halls, doctors and secretaries: everyday scenes of joy, frustration, curiosity, and connection, in which the determination and collective actions and resolve and actions of the movement are equally expressed.

This extensive volume presents Derby’s images in sequences that between them document rural and urban poverty, offer lucid ethnographies of particular streets and families, track the day-to-day lives of African American children growing up in the Mississippi Delta, and bear witness to such pivotal events as the Jackson State University shooting, the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr., and the 1968 Democratic Convention. Derby’s photographs offer us an invaluably rich portrait of a historical moment whose effects have defined today’s world and issues a vital reassertion of the work that remains to be done. Artist photographer Hannah Collins has worked with Doris Derby to recount the events photographed in extensive texts which accompany the images.

The story behind Derby’s wonderful, intimate pictures is enmeshed with the rest of her extraordinary life … Her experience also provides a revealing snapshot of the rupture that America went through in the 1960s and 70s.‘The Guardian

Many of [Derby’s] photographs from this time feel very joyful – full of positive energy and activity – or otherwise depict everyday scenes, quite removed from the Civil Rights protests and all the violence the black community was experiencing‘ Apollo

Derby’s photographs capture small, private moments but carry the weight of the momentous groundswell of change for a people who wanted and deserved better.‘ Storied

A firsthand account of the advancements and setbacks of the movement from an incisive photographer on the frontlines.‘ Brooklyn Rail

Derby’s searing and intimate photos capture a crucial moment in history, but they aren’t trapped in the past … her photos feel especially poignant when seen from today’s fraught political climate.Hyperallergic


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