Sherrod was born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1937 and raised by his
grandmother, a devout Baptist. Sherrod grew up singing in the choir,
attending Sunday school and even preaching to other children at Mount
Olivet Baptist Church. He first became aware of racism at age two, when
his mother yanked him out of a front seat and pulled him to the back of a
bus. He took his first step toward activism in 1954, just after the
Supreme Court decision to desegregate public schools. A friend asked him
if he wanted to desegregate the white churches, and so the two "sat-in"
at white services in Petersburg, long before the sit-in movement began.
1961, while studying at Virginia Union University, Sherrod again joined
in a sit-in, this time at department stores in Richmond, Virginia.
Later that year, he turned down a college teaching position and instead
headed to Shaw University to join student leaders from around the
country in the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating
Sherrod was one of the first to practice the
jail-no bail policy, which became a common tactic of the movement. When
ten students were arrested for a sit-in in Rock Hill, South Carolina in
February of 1961, Sherrod and three others went to Rock Hill, held a
sit-in, were arrested, refused bail, and served thirty-day sentences in
an attempt to dramatize the injustice of the law.
Early on, one
of SNCC's areas of focus was southwest Georgia, where Sherrod went in
the fall of 1961 at age 22. Two months after arriving in Albany,
Georgia, Sherrod and SNCC field workers led a large series of
demonstrations that would last for over three difficult years, during
which hundreds were arrested. By printing up leaflets, registering
voters, and holding seminars on non-violent resistance, they galvanized
Albany's black students to rise up and challenge unjust laws of
segregation. Throughout this time, Sherrod and SNCC field workers
traveled throughout the surrounding counties to educate and register
black voters in southwest Georgia's rural areas.
Shirley Sherrod is a former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. She became the subject of a controversy when edited remarks were used to force her to resign.
However, upon review of the complete unedited video in full context,
the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack, the United States
Secretary of Agriculture, apologized for the firing and Sherrod was
offered a new position.
Sherrod (née Miller) was born in 1948 in Baker County, Georgia, to Grace and Hosie Miller. In 1965, when she was 17 years old, her father, Hosie Miller, a deacon at the local Baptist Church, was shot to death by a white farmer, reportedly over a dispute about livestock. No charges were returned against the shooter by an all-white grand jury. This was a turning point in her life and led her to feel that she should stay in the South to bring about change.
Several months after Miller's murder, a cross was burned at night in
front of the Miller family's residence with Grace Miller and her four
daughters, including Shirley, and infant son, born after her husband's
killing, still inside.
That same year, Sherrod was among the first black students to enroll in the previously all-white high school in Baker County.
Eleven years later, Grace Miller became the first black woman elected
to a county office, one she continued to hold, as of 2010.
Sherrod attended Fort Valley State College and later studied sociology at Albany State University in Georgia while working for civil rights with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee where she met her future husband, minister Charles Sherrod. She went on to Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she earned her master's degree in community development. She returned to Georgia to work with the Department of Agriculture in Georgia "to help minority farmers keep their land."
New Communities land trust
In 1969, Sherrod and her husband were among the U.S. civil rights and land collective activists co-founding New Communities, a collective farm in Southwest Georgia modeled on kibbutzim in Israel. According to scholarship by land trust activists Susan Witt and Robert Swann, New Communities' founding in 1969 by individuals such as the Sherrods connected to the Albany Movement served as a laboratory and model in a movement toward the development of Community Land Trusts
throughout the U.S.: "The perseverance and foresight of that team in
Georgia, motivated by the right of African-American farmers to farm land
securely and affordably, initiated the CLT movement in this country."
Located in Lee County, Georgia, the 5,700-acre (23 km2) project was one of the largest tracts of black-owned land in the U.S. The project soon encountered difficulties in the opposition of area white farmers, who accused participants of being communists, and also from segregationist Democratic Governor Lester Maddox, who prevented development funds for the project from entering the state. A drought in the 1970s and inability to get government loans led to the project's ultimate demise in 1985.
Class action lawsuit
After Sherrod and her husband lost their farm when they were unable to secure USDA loans, they became class action plaintiffs in the civil suit Pigford v. Glickman. The Department agreed to a settlement in which compensation was paid between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1999, in "the largest civil rights settlement in history, with nearly $1 billion being paid to more than 16,000 victims."
A federal law passed in 2008 — with then-Senator Barack Obama's sponsorship — to allow up to 70,000 more claimants to qualify,
which included New Communities, for the communal farm in which Sherrod
and her husband had partnered. In 2009, chief arbitrator Michael Lewis
ruled that the USDA had discriminated against New Communities by denying
a loan to the operation and extending more favorable terms to white
New Communities received a $12.8 million settlement that included $8.2
million in compensation for loss of farm land, $4.2 million for loss of
income and $330,000 to Sherrod and her husband
for "mental anguish"
Sherrod was hired by the USDA in August 2009 as the Georgia director of rural development
, the first black person to hold that position.[
Edited by pattigurlatl - Feb 08 2013 at 2:35am