Shirley Sherrod: Progress, Vision and New Leadership

Susanna Hegner

Shirley and Charles Sherrod founded the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education in 1961 to educate, engage and empower through advocacy and community organizing. SWGAP has successfully addressed school segregation, welfare rights, voter rights and education, housing, land loss, economic development and unfair policies affecting school children and families.

After decades of helping minority farmers keep their land, Sherrod became the first African American to hold the position of Georgia Director of Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Sherrods were instrumental in Pigford v. Glickman, a class-action lawsuit challenging USDA discrimination and resulting in the largest civil rights settlement in history.

In 2000, Sherrod joined forces with like-minded women in Alabama and Mississippi to form the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative. SRBWI addresses the needs of black women in 77 counties in the Black Belt region, some of the poorest parts in the United States.

Sherrod has a master’s degree in community development. She met her husband while working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

In this video, Sherrod describes progress made, her vision for the future and the importance of training the next generation of leaders.