People who care about civil rights and racial reconciliation may eventually thank Andrew Breitbart for bringing Shirley Sherrod the global attention she deserves. Really. Her message of racial healing, her insight that the forces of wealth and injustice have always pit "the haves and the have-nots" against each other, whatever their race, is exactly what's missing in today's Beltway debates about race. What's even more amazing, but almost completely unexplored in this controversy, is the historic civil rights leadership role of her husband, Charles Sherrod, an early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who served on the front lines of the nonviolent civil rights movement in the early 1960s.It's a wonderful writeup of Mr. Sherrod's accomplishments and fucking damn hard work. Joan interviews many of the writers that authored books about the times and the people that led the civil rights movement. Please take the time to read it.
Sherrod was SNCC's first field secretary, and he co-founded the Albany movement after a student sit-in at the local bus station (to test a recently enacted desegregation law) led to a years-long campaign that ultimately involved Martin Luther King Jr. and the intervention of President John F. Kennedy. He traveled to the historic (and almost all-white) 1964 Democratic National Convention, when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fought for more black representation. He was jailed several times and stayed with SNCC until 1966, when Stokely Carmichael became chair and whites were expelled, but he'd already become more focused on his work in southwest Georgia than SNCC politics. Sherrod got his doctor of divinity degree from New York's Union Theological Seminary, then returned to Albany to found the Southwest Georgia Independent Voters Project, then the agricultural cooperative New Communities Inc. He served 14 years on the Albany City Council, and he still lives there, known to civil rights movement veterans but obscure to the wider world, until his wife was attacked by the ignorant bullies of the right.
"We tend to think of civil rights workers as people who, it was an episode in their life before they went on and did something else," says Clayborne Carson, SNCC historian and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford. "But Sherrod is an exemplar of those people who didn't leave the movement. They stayed, and they're still fighting, to this day." (I tried to reach Sherrod for this story, but not surprisingly, the voice-mail boxes I got to were full.)
Photo is Charles Sherrod and Carl Braden, circa 1963, from here at Wisconsin History.org.
Oh and Andy Breitbart...fuck off and die you scum-sucking, lying piece of shit.