Shirley Sherrod is a Baker County, Georgia native who has spent much of her life fighting for civil rights. As a college student, Sherrod worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and has followed her mission of helping African American farmers since the 1960s. In 1969 Sherrod and her activist-husband co-founded New Communities, Inc., the country’s first collective land trust, in Southwest Georgia. When New Communities lost its land to foreclosure in 1985, Sherrod went to work for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, where she was tasked with helping Black farmers keep their land. In 2009, she was appointed by President Obama to serve as Georgia state director of Rural Development, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The following year, Sherrod was forced to resign after Andrew Breitbart published a selectively-edited video of one of her speeches, making her look like a racist. Once it became clear the video was doctored, the USDA offered Sherrod a new position, although she declined. In 2011, she was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame, and in 2018, she was awarded the James Beard Leadership Award. Today, Sherrod serves as executive director of the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc., a non-profit organization she co-founded with her husband in the 1960s, and as vice president for Development for New Communities, Inc.
"I wish that somehow, some way we could learn to live together in this country."