Saunders, Doris (1921—)

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Saunders, Doris (1921—)

African-American publisher and journalist. Born Doris Evans on August 8, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois; daughter of Alvesta Stewart Evans and Thelma (Rice) Evans; attended Northwestern University, 1938–40; attended Central YMCA College, 1940–41; Roosevelt University, B.A., 1951; Boston University, M.S. and M.A., 1977; attended Vanderbilt University, 1983–84; married Sydney S. Smith (divorced); married Vincent E. Saunders, Jr., on October 28, 1950 (divorced August 1963); children: (second marriage) Ann Camille Saunders ; Vincent E. Saunders III.

Established and operated Plus Factor and Information Public Relations (1966); wrote and associate produced "Our People" on WTTW-TV (1968–70).

Doris Saunders was born Doris Evans in 1921 in Chicago, the daughter of Alvesta Stewart Evans and Thelma Rice Evans . When her father died during her teenage years, her mother went to work to support the family. From that point on, Saunders and her family lived with her maternal grandparents. While a student at Englewood High School, Saunders developed a mentor-ward relationship with Charlemae Hill Rollins , then the children's librarian at the Hall Branch Library, which had a pronounced affect on young Saunders' future. After high school, she studied at Northwestern University from 1938 until 1940, then transferred to Central YMCA College from 1940 to 1941, at which time she entered an on-the-job training program with the Chicago Public Library system. She remained with that civil service system through 1949, being promoted from junior library assistant to principal reference librarian.

Saunders eventually lost patience with the biased environment at the Chicago Public Library, and on February 1, 1949, accepted a position as librarian for the Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony. She acquired her job, which did not exist prior to her application, on ingenuity. Because of her efforts, the Johnson library would become an important reference library, specializing in contemporary black history during the 20th century. Later, in 1960, she convinced publisher John H. Johnson to create another position for her to oversee an innovative project producing hardcover titles about African-Americans and African-American history. In this capacity, Saunders was responsible for such publications as Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, Jr.

In 1966, Saunders founded a public-relations firm, Plus Factor and Information. She contributed articles to the Chicago Daily Defender and hosted "The Doris Saunders Show," a lunchtime radio talk show on WBEE in Chicago. She later wrote and associate produced "Our People" for WTTW-TV. At Chicago State University, she served as the director of community relations in 1968, with expanded duties from 1970 to 1972 as acting director of institutional development. Saunders then returned to work for Johnson Publishing, prior to her enrollment in postgraduate studies at Boston University for one year. In 1977, she emerged with a master of science degree in journalism and a master of arts degree in African-American studies. She attended doctoral courses in history at Vanderbilt University from 1983 to 1984. As time permitted, Saunders continued to publish books for Johnson, including one of her own written with Geraldyn Major , Black Society (1976).

During her years at the Chicago Public Library System, Saunders married and divorced Sydney S. Smith. On October 28, 1950, she married Vincent E. Saunders, Jr., an educator from Chicago. The couple divorced in August 1963, after having two children, Ann Camille and Vincent III. Saunders' professional involvement includes memberships in the National Association of Media Women and the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. She served the Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as a board member, and is a member of the Chicago Leadership Resource Program. Saunders also was a member of the Black Advisory Commission for the 1980 U.S. Census.


Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.

Gloria Cooksey , freelance writer, Sacramento, California

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Saunders, Doris (1921—)

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