The right-wing attack on Shirley Sherrod succeeded in introducing a heroic figure to the mainstream media, after they – and the Obama administration and the NAACP – recovered from their initial knee-jerk defensive response. Time Magazine published an article introducing the real Shirley Sherrod and her long-time struggle for justice within the USDA:
It was 1985, 20 years after her father was murdered by a white man who was never prosecuted, and the nearly 6,000-acre collective farm she had helped form in the early 1970s to create a sort of African-American utopia in the midst of Georgia’s white farming community was going under.
It’s a struggle she shared with her husband, SNCC leader, Freedom Rider and life-long civil rights activist Reverend Charles Sherrod. PBS includes a profile in their “This Far By Faith” documentary:
Charles 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….
Today Maureen Dowd pointed out the problems with an administration (and NAACP leadership) that chose to believe a right-wing attack rather than taking a few minutes to check the facts:
The West Wing white guys who pushed to ditch Shirley Sherrod before Glenn Beck could pounce not only didn’t bother to Google, they weren’t familiar enough with civil rights history to recognize the name Sherrod. And they didn’t return the calls and e-mail of prominent blacks who tried to alert them that something was wrong.
I hope Sherrod agrees to go back to work in Washington. We need her there. And if not in the USDA, then maybe, as Maureen Dowd suggests, in the White House.