Derby arrived in Mississippi, in 1963, to teach adult, African Americans how to read, at Tougaloo College, on the northern side of Jackson, Miss. It was a turbulent time in Mississippi as the legacy of Jim Crow came to a head with the budding Civil Rights Movement. Derby worked with a group, called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC.
The year before she arrived in Jackson, riots broke out at the University of Mississippi, in Oxford, when James Meredith became that school’s first African-American student. A year after she arrived, three civil rights workers — who Derby personally knew — were murdered in Philadelphia, Miss., because of the work they were doing to gain equal rights for African Americans in the state.
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