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Interview with Shirley Sherrod, April 25, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:37 - Family History in Baker County

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Partial Transcript: Um, when and where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Shirley Sherrod discusses being born and raised on a farm in Baker County, Georgia. She recalls going to school in old Army barracks until a new school was built in 1957. Sherrod also discusses her family's history in Baker County dating as far back as 1870. She addresses Baker County's bad reputation in reference to "The Gator," the sheriff during her lifetime.

Keywords: 1870 United States Census; Albany, GA; Brown v. Board of Education; L. Warren Johnson; Newton, GA; segregation

00:04:13 - The Murder of Bobby Hall

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Partial Transcript: The sheriff before him was Claud Screws.

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod shares the unofficial story behind the murder of Bobby Hall by Sheriff Claud Screws, who was indicted of depriving Hall of his civil rights.

Keywords: Baker County, GA; Robert “Bobby” Hall; Screws v. United States

00:07:06 - School Conditions

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, and you, growing up you had your own experiences...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod shares her experiences in Hawkinstown, an unincorporated area locally know as a town of black land owners in Baker County. She explains that after the start of building new schools in 1956, she attended school in churches until transferring to the new school in April of 1957.

Keywords: Albany, GA; Baker County, GA; Brown v. Board of Education; integration; segregation

00:10:56 - Legal Encounters

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Partial Transcript: So, one of the things that I've been trying to figure out...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod shares the involvement of local lawyer Earl Jones in her life, as well as the stories of four individuals of Baker County who suffered the consequences of pursuing the right to vote with his help.

Keywords: Arthur Williams; Baker County, GA; Benjamin T. Cunning; Carl Broadway; Hosie Miller; Josh Williams

00:14:57 - Death of her Father

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Partial Transcript: And one of the things it seems to me...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod details that although she never intended on remaining in the south, after her father's death in 1965 she decided to stay and devote her life to working towards change.

Keywords: Baker County, GA; Civil Rights

00:18:01 - Baker County Movement

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Partial Transcript: And at that point, so just to back track a little...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod explains that she met her husband Charles Sherrod when he came to Baker County to help start a movement towards change. She shares her experience marching around the local court house and trying to register to vote. She discusses the complications and dangers The Gator imposed on the local black community.

Keywords: 1964 Civil Rights Act; Albany Movement; Baker County, GA; L. Warren Johnson; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); desegregation

00:22:11 - Baker County Sheriff Elections

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Partial Transcript: So, you met Charles in 1965, by then relatively famous...

Segment Synopsis: Shirley Sherrod married Charles Sherrod a little over a year after meeting him in 1965 before working with him to spread the movement to other Southwest Georgia counties. She explains the confrontation of the Gator and Charles Sherrod, as well as when the community came together to keep the Johnson's family out of the Baker County Sheriff's Department.

Keywords: Baker County, GA; L. Warren Johnson; Voting Rights Act of 1965

00:29:17 - The Start of New Communities, Inc.

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of that, so 1965 to 1968...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod recalls losing many important people in the movement due to the development of using jobs to end the Albany Movement. She retells Charles Sherrod's work with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southwest Georgia Project and his trip to Israel to study the Kibbutz. Together, they used a combination of what they knew and what they learned to start New Communities, Inc.

Keywords: Baker County Movement; Community Land Trust; Ed Feaver; International Student Ministry, Inc.; Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael); SNCC; Southwest Georgia Community Council; Union Theological Seminary; War on poverty

00:35:23 - Purchasing Land for NCI

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Partial Transcript: Slater King was, um, a real estate agent...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod mentions the important role Slater King played in helping to purchase the land for New Communities, Inc. She explains the planning done after being promised funds from the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Keywords: Fay Bennett; Featherfield Farm; Robert (Bob) Swann; The Nature Conservancy

00:40:02 - Planning NCI

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Partial Transcript: So, the beginning of New Communities came from...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod discusses the ongoing intimidation of black people being forced off of their land into the 1970s. She mentions Lester Maddox vetoing the grant meant to go to New Communities, Inc and the planning of the farm.

Keywords: Harrison Miller; United States Commission on Civil Rights; office of Economic Opportunity (OEO)

00:44:14 - Financial Complications in NCI

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Partial Transcript: The USDA and the OEO, you're dealing with them...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod details the issues she and farm manger Harrison Miller experienced in funding New Communities, Inc. After the drought in 1976 they attempted to get a loan from Farmer's Home Administration, which they were kept from for three years. By 1985, Farmers Home Administration foreclosed and sold the land.

Keywords: Dawson, Ga; Josephus Johnson; Office of Economic Opportunity; Pigford v. Glickman; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

00:50:26 - Political Complications in Funding

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Partial Transcript: So, I had always thought when I looked at this story...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod explains the political complications with grants that were to be given to them, as well as the opposition faced at local, state, and federal government levels. She and the interviewer also compare similar problems with that of Southwest Alabama Farmers Cooperative Association (SWAFCA).

Keywords: Elijah Lewis FORRESTER; Federation of Southern Cooperatives; George Corley Wallace Jr.; James "Jimmy" Earl Carter Jr.; Lee County, Ga; Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO); Richard Milhous Nixon; Robert Sargent Shriver Jr.; Southwest Alabama Farmers Cooperative Association (SWAFCA)

00:53:23 - Attempt to Bring Down NCI

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Partial Transcript: Um, in terms of back on the farm throughout all this...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod recalls the trouble started by a man who claimed his name was Robert Johnson in some effort to shut down New Communities Inc. She also discusses the programs they had for the youth that worked for them, including church activities and flights to amusement parks.

Keywords: Charles Sherrod; Eastern Air Lines; Emergency Land Fund; Joe Brooks; Ron Wilkins

01:00:44 - Federation of Southern Cooperatives

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Partial Transcript: What do you think, besides, obviously, the racism...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod elaborates that in 1985, the people of New Communities Inc. were made to move off the land very quickly and she soon began working for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. While there, she had the opportunity to be of aid to local farmers and went to several conferences, one of which was with the United States Department of Agriculture.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Pigford v. Glickman; USDA

01:07:33 - Other Effective Partners

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Partial Transcript: I think he made a decision he would work with me...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod mentions an anonymous man who helped her during some of their most successful times. She discusses their accomplishments and the complaints of the district director about her reports.

Keywords: New Communities Inc.

01:12:41 - Lawsuit Prior to Pigford v. Glickman

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Partial Transcript: I'll start to wrap it up then...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod, being very involved with the Federation, eventually gained a reputation for having a way with Farmers Home Administration. She briefly explains the details of a lawsuit and those involved, which set the stage for Pigford v. Glickman in 1997.

Keywords: Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corp.; Calvin R. King; Farmers Legal Action Group; The Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP)

01:17:13 - Preparing for Pigford v. Glickman

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Partial Transcript: And the money from that, you guys then...

Segment Synopsis: Once Sherrod realized New Communities could file a claim in the Pigford case, Charles Sherrod went through all their files at the Lee County Court House. She explains that by doing so they learned how no grants were given to them because they were being awarded to bigger plantations. They met the deadline for the case, filed in 1999, and received their award in 2009.

Keywords: Federation of Southern Cooperatives; Pigford v. Glickman

01:21:02 - History of the Land

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Partial Transcript: It was once owned by the largest slave owner...

Segment Synopsis: Sherrod discusses the planning process and the different areas of the land they plan to incorporate while preserving farm culture. She also retells some of the history of the land. Sherrod explains that they have had the land blessed and plan to have a festival to bring people together and educate them.

Keywords: Albany, GA; Atlanta, GA; Grady County, GA; Herbert Phipps; Perkins and Will; The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe