Doris Elaine Saunders, Black Educator Hall of Fame

E’ry day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer.

But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month. February is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black educator is Doris Elaine Saunders.

Doris Elaine Saunders was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 8, 1921. She was many things, including an author and entrepreneur. She was also an educator as a librarian, lecturer, and professor. But more importantly, Saunders was rooted in the Black community and a love for Black people.

Her work stresses the importance of how Black governance formations influence the goals of Black professionals. For Saunders, her goals centered on Black people telling their stories and the connection Black people had to memory.

Saunders was educated in Chicago Public Schools. She was a graduate of Englewood High School. She received her BA, from Roosevelt University in 1951; her MS and MA degrees from Boston University in 1977; and completed postgraduate work (ABD) at Vanderbilt University in 1984. Upon obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Saunders completed Chicago Public Library (CPL) training. She entered the CPL system and rose through the ranks as a librarian.

She became a Junior Library Assistant, passed the Civil Service examination for Senior Library Assistant and when moved to the George M. Pullman Branch Library, she was appointed the first African American reference librarian to work in the Social Science and Business Division of the main library. By 1948, Saunders was the highest-ranking Black librarian for CPL. However, she made a career change, by writing one letter that changed her life.

The next year, Saunders wrote a letter to John H. Johnson, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company—publishers of Ebony and JET Magazine—about starting a library for the magazine. Saunders was interviewed and hired to be the chief librarian for the publishing company. She was promoted to the Director of the Book Publishing Division; her editing credits include, The Day They Marched (1963), The Kennedy Years and the Negro (1964), and compiled the Negro Handbook (1966).

As an educator, Saunders taught at Chicago State University and Jackson State University. At Jackson State, Saunders was a Professor and Coordinator of Print Journalism as well as Chair of the Department of Mass Communications at Jackson State University until her retirement in 1991. As an entrepreneur, Saunders opened two companies; a public relations firm in Chicago and a genealogy research company in Jackson called Ancestor Hunting.

Ancestor Hunting was born from interviews Saunders was conducting of Black people in Jackson and their history. This built with her the desire to help Black people trace back their lineages. But was the life of Saunders; a labor of love in restoring the memory of African peoples of the United States. She passed away in 2014.

Doris E. Saunders; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Doris E. Saunders, visit the following site.


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