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Resignation of Shirley Sherrod

Resignation of Shirley Sherrod

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On July 19, 2010, Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her appointed position as Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

 because of video excerpts from her address to a March 2010 NAACP event, which the blogger Andrew Breitbart
Andrew Breitbart
Andrew Breitbart is an American publisher, commentator for the Washington Times, author, an occasional guest commentator on various news programs who has served as an editor for the Drudge Report website...

 had posted on his website with a lengthy interpretation of her remarks.

From these video excerpts, the NAACP condemned Sherrod's remarks as racist and U.S. government officials called on the official to resign because her effectiveness would be damaged. But, upon review of the complete unedited video in full context, the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack
Thomas James "Tom" Vilsack is an American politician, a member of the Democratic Party, and presently the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He served as the 40th Governor of the state of Iowa. He was first elected in 1998 and re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002...

, the United States Secretary of Agriculture
United States Secretary of Agriculture
The United States Secretary of Agriculture is the head of the United States Department of Agriculture. The current secretary is Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on 20 January 2009. The position carries similar responsibilities to those of agriculture ministers in other...

, apologized for the firing and offered Sherrod a new position.

Extensive media coverage of the excerpted videos, various parties' comments, and later corrections when the full story was discovered, exacerbated the affair. The event brought to the forefront current debates regarding racism in the United States
Racism in the United States
Racism in the United States has been a major issue since the colonial era and the slave era. Legally sanctioned racism imposed a heavy burden on Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latin Americans...

, cable news
United States cable news
Cable news refers to television channels devoted to television news broadcasts, with the name deriving from the proliferation of such networks during the 1980s with the advent of cable television. In the United States, early networks included CNN in 1980, Financial News Network in 1981, and CNN2 ...

 reporting, internet ideological websites
Political blog
A political blog is a common type of blog that comments on politics. In liberal democracies the right to criticize the government without interference is considered an important element of free speech...

, and decisions made by President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

's administration
Presidency of Barack Obama
The Presidency of Barack Obama began at noon EST on January 20, 2009 when he became the 44th President of the United States. Obama was a United States Senator from Illinois at the time of his victory over Arizona Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential election...

.

The Obama administration soon apologized to Sherrod, and offered her a full-time, high-level internal advocacy position with the USDA, which she ultimately declined. In 2011, Sherrod sued Breitbart for defamation. His attorneys filed for dismissal two months later on First Amendment grounds.

Shirley Sherrod aware of videos on 7/14


When Shirley Sherrod addressed the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund on August 21, 2010, she claimed to have been aware of the videos on July 14, 2010; five days before they were posted on Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website. Sherrod says that she immediately notified the USDA about the videos, saying that they did not convey the entire or accurate story. She says that she heard nothing from the USDA until Monday, July 19, 2010, when she was first put on administrative leave and then asked to resign under orders from the White House.

Excerpted video


On July 19, 2010, two different video clips were posted by conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart
Andrew Breitbart
Andrew Breitbart is an American publisher, commentator for the Washington Times, author, an occasional guest commentator on various news programs who has served as an editor for the Drudge Report website...

 to his BigGovernment.com website, along with a nearly 1,000 word blog post:
We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.

In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn't do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from "one of his own kind". She refers him to a white lawyer.

Sherrod's racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups' racial tolerance.}}



The first video showed Sherrod making the following remarks at a speech to the NAACP Freedom Fund:
Subsequent events showed that the posted video was an excerpt of broader comments that conveyed a different meaning. Breitbart said he did not edit the video and did not have a copy of the entire speech. The full 43-minute video was produced by a Douglas, Georgia
Douglas, Georgia
Douglas is a city in Coffee County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 11,589. Douglas is the county seat of Coffee County and the core city of the Douglas, Georgia Micropolitan Statistical Area which has a population of 48,708 as of the 2008 census...

, company that filmed the banquet for the local Georgia chapter of the NAACP. The owner of the video company, Johnny Wilkerson, said on July 20 that he was sending the full video to the national NAACP and would post it in full once he got permission to do so. Breitbart's source for the excerpt remained confidential .

Controversy timeline


Much of the controversy surrounding this incident involves actions that were taken by the parties and when these actions were performed. An extensive timeline of the affair was produced by a Media Matters for America
Media Matters for America
Media Matters for America is a politically progressive media watchdog group which says it is "dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media." Set up as a 501 non-profit organization, MMfA was founded in 2004 by journalist and...

, described as a left of center media outlet. Greg Pollowitz of National Review Online, considered a right-of-center media outlet, endorsed Media Matters' timeline as "as good as any I’ve seen," with the exception of the exclusion of a TV news broadcast timeline.

Initial media reports


The first news outlet to report on the Breitbart video was FoxNews.com, which posted an article about the story on its website. The New York City affiliate for CBS
WCBS-TV
WCBS-TV, channel 2, is the flagship station of the CBS television network, located in New York City. The station's studios are located within the CBS Broadcast Center and its transmitter is atop the Empire State Building, both in Midtown Manhattan....

 also posted a report on its website later that afternoon. The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper's related website also soon picked up the story. In addition, the story was picked up and reported widely in the blogosphere
Blogosphere
The blogosphere is made up of all blogs and their interconnections. The term implies that blogs exist together as a connected community or as a social network in which everyday authors can publish their opinions...

.

Resignation of Sherrod


According to Sherrod, on the afternoon of July 19, she received numerous demands from government officials to submit her resignation, demands that she characterized as harassment. In response to a call from USDA deputy undersecretary Cheryl Cook, Sherrod submitted her resignation via email. Sherrod claims that Cook told her White House officials wanted her to quit immediately because the controversy was "going to be on Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck (TV program)
Glenn Beck is a United States cable news show hosted by Glenn Beck that aired weekdays on Fox News Channel. The program, originally on CNN Headline News , premiered on FNC on January 19, 2009 and aired weekdays at 5:00 PM EST...

 tonight", a claim disputed by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
Robert Gibbs
Robert Lane Gibbs was the 28th White House Press Secretary. Gibbs was the communications director for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Obama's 2008 presidential campaign...

.

Official comments about Sherrod


That same evening, the President of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous
Benjamin Jealous
Benjamin Todd Jealous is the current president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People . He is the youngest ever national leader of the organization.-Early life and education:...

, posted a tweet
Twitter
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets".Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July...

 stating that his organization was "appalled" by Sherrod's comments. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack
Thomas James "Tom" Vilsack is an American politician, a member of the Democratic Party, and presently the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. He served as the 40th Governor of the state of Iowa. He was first elected in 1998 and re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002...

 released a statement the following day explaining his agency's actions in the firing, suggesting that Sherrod's statements as shown in the video damaged her effectiveness as USDA tried to improve its previous discriminatory record.

Initial broadcasting of Breitbart video


The Breitbart video was first broadcast that evening on The O'Reilly Factor
The O'Reilly Factor
The O'Reilly Factor, originally titled The O'Reilly Report from 1996 to 1998 and often called The Factor, is an American talk show on the Fox News Channel hosted by commentator Bill O'Reilly, who often discusses current controversial political issues with guests.The program was the most watched...

, a talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

 on the Fox News Channel
Fox News Channel
Fox News Channel , often called Fox News, is a cable and satellite television news channel owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, a subsidiary of News Corporation...

; host Bill O'Reilly
Bill O'Reilly (political commentator)
William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator. He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, which is the most watched cable news television program on American television...

 stated that Sherrod should resign. At the time of the taping of the show, news of Sherrod's resignation had not yet been reported, nor had the NAACP yet released the full video. But, the program was not broadcast until after Sherrod resigned and O'Reilly's staff had confirmed that fact with the USDA.

The video was also mentioned by St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 Tea Party organizer Dana Loesch
Dana Loesch
Dana Loesch is a conservative talk radio host, associated with the Tea Party movement.Dana Loesch graduated from Fox High School in Arnold, Missouri. She attended St. Louis Community College and transferred to Webster University, where she majored in journalism...

 on Larry King Live
Larry King Live
Larry King Live is an American talk show hosted by Larry King on CNN from 1985 to 2010. It was CNN's most watched and longest-running program, with over one million viewers nightly....

, and on Anderson Cooper 360 (both on CNN). It was discussed on Hannity
Hannity
Hannity is a television show on the Fox News network, a replacement to the long-running show Hannity & Colmes. It is hosted by conservative political pundit Sean Hannity....

and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren (both on Fox) as well, but notably not on Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck (TV program)
Glenn Beck is a United States cable news show hosted by Glenn Beck that aired weekdays on Fox News Channel. The program, originally on CNN Headline News , premiered on FNC on January 19, 2009 and aired weekdays at 5:00 PM EST...

.

Sherrod's account


In the full video, Sherrod related her experience with a farmer, who in 1986 was the first white farmer to come to her for help. (On July 20 CNN received a telephone call from the farmer's wife and learned his name was Roger Spooner.) Sherrod narrated that "the land was being sold, and had in fact already been rented out from under him." At first, she felt that he had a superior attitude toward her, causing her to recall harsh aspects of her life in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 including the murder of her father, but she went on to say the following:
According to Sherrod, she did her job – taking him to a white lawyer.
Sherrod rejected claims that she was racist and said she "went all out" to help the man keep his farm. She said that the incident helped her learn to move beyond race, and she told the story to audiences to make that point.

Spooner family's account


Roger Spooner said on CNN that Sherrod is not a racist, that she did everything she could for his family, and over 20 years later, he and Sherrod remain friends. The Spooners credit Sherrod with helping them save their farm: "If it hadn't been for her, we would've never known who to see or what to do," Roger Spooner said. "She led us right to our success." His wife, Eloise Spooner, said that "after things kind of settled down, she brought Sherrod some tomatoes out of her garden, and they had a good visit." Eloise Spooner recalled Sherrod as "nice-mannered, thoughtful, friendly; a good person." The couple were surprised by the controversy. "I don't know what brought up the racist mess," Roger Spooner said. "They just want to stir up some trouble, it sounds to me in my opinion." Eloise Spooner said that on seeing the story of Sherrod's resignation, "I said, 'That ain't right. They have not treated her right.'"

Full video


The extended unedited video of her speech released by the NAACP showed that in her full speech Sherrod emphasized what was only touched on in the excerpt, that she learned from the incident that poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, not race, was the key factor in rural development. She said she ultimately worked hard to save the farmer's land.
As follows, other references to race in Sherrod's speech related to a story of her more recent help of a family to prevent forced sale of their farmland.

Reactions to the incident


Ralph Paige, executive director of the nonprofit Sherrod worked for before being appointed to the USDA job in 2009, said that Sherrod "garnered only praise and there were never any claims of discrimination against her", adding that "I can't praise Shirley enough, she holds no malice in her heart". Within hours of the video's being shown, the NAACP made a statement, with the president Benjamin Jealous
Benjamin Jealous
Benjamin Todd Jealous is the current president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People . He is the youngest ever national leader of the organization.-Early life and education:...

 condemning Sherrod for having abused her power and criticizing the apparent audience reaction as well.

After the NAACP released the entire videotape, its officials retracted their previous statement and said:

During the uproar over Sherrod's resignation, Vilsack released a statement on July 20 saying that the USDA would "conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts". Sherrod said, "she might not want her job back if it's offered ... because of all the publicity surrounding what happened … how would I be treated once I'm back there? I just don't know ... I would have to be reassured on that."

On July 21, 2010, Fox News rejected claims that it inflamed the situation. While the story was not mentioned on the Fox News Channel until after Sherrod's resignation, the edited video and an accompanying article had been published on the Fox News website, as well as those of several other news organizations, prior to her resignation.

Later, the White House sought official review of the case. Sherrod watched live at the CNN Center
CNN Center
The CNN Center is the world headquarters of the Cable News Network . The main newsrooms and studios for several of CNN's news channels are located in the building...

 when Robert Gibbs
Robert Gibbs
Robert Lane Gibbs was the 28th White House Press Secretary. Gibbs was the communications director for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Obama's 2008 presidential campaign...

, White House press spokesman, extended her an apology. She said she welcomed the review and accepted the apology.

On July 21, Vilsack of USDA said he offered a "personal and profound apology to Shirley Sherrod for forcing her to resign as a result of an out-of-context video posted to a conservative website." He said that he had offered Ms. Sherrod a new position in the department, and that she was taking time to consider it. That night, Bill O'Reilly
Bill O'Reilly (political commentator)
William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator. He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, which is the most watched cable news television program on American television...

, the political commentator, apologized to Sherrod for his remarks calling for her removal from office; he said he had not done his homework adequately. He had been the first on cable TV to air the video excerpt posted by Breitbart.

Reactions from Breitbart


Initially, Breitbart offered no apology to Sherrod, claiming she "harbored" racist sentiments. On July 20, 2010, in an interview with CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

's John King
John King (journalist)
John King is an American journalist and is the anchor of John King, USA which appears weeknights at 7pm/ET on CNN. He is also the former anchor of State of the Union with John King...

, Breitbart responded to questions on his intentions in releasing the video, saying that:Breitbart questioned CNN's accepting Eloise Spooner's identity. In a July 30 interview with Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

, Breitbart said he would be glad to meet with Sherrod privately. He agreed that the excerpted video took things out of context and said, if he could do things all over again, he would not have posted the excerpted video.

Reactions and subsequent statements by Sherrod


President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 spoke to Sherrod personally in a phone call that lasted for seven minutes. Although he did not apologize personally to her, Sherrod said she was "very, very pleased with the conversation." On July 22, Sherrod said she planned to sue Breitbart, who published the excerpted video that led to her resignation. She also said that she would like to see Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website "shut down".
In an interview with the CNN reporter Anderson Cooper
Anderson Cooper
Anderson Hays Cooper is an American journalist, author, and television personality. He is the primary anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°. The program is normally broadcast live from a New York City studio; however, Cooper often broadcasts live on location for breaking news stories...

, Sherrod referred to Breitbart as "vicious" and a "racist," and said that he would "like to get us stuck back in the times of slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

". National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

commentators suggested she then owed Breitbart an apology, and Salon's
Salon.com
Salon.com, part of Salon Media Group , often just called Salon, is an online liberal magazine, with content updated each weekday. Salon was founded by David Talbot and launched on November 20, 1995. It was the internet's first online-only commercial publication. The magazine focuses on U.S...

 Joan Walsh
Joan Walsh
Joan Maureen Walsh is a liberal editor, writer, and blogger. Since February 2005 she has been the editor-in-chief of Salon.com, a San Francisco-based American liberal politics and culture Web site. She joined Salon as its first full-time news editor in 1998, and became managing editor in 2004...

 said Sherrod's assertion came from her own viewpoint.

Biography of Shirley Sherrod


Shirley Sherrod (née Miller) was born in 1948 in Baker County
Baker County, Georgia
Baker County is a county in the U.S. state of Georgia. , the population is 4,074. The 2007 Census Estimate placed the population at 3,781. The county seat is Newton.Baker County is included in the Albany, Georgia Metropolitan Statistical Area.-History:...

, Georgia, to Grace and Hosie Miller. In 1965, when she was 17 years old, her father, Hosie Miller, a deacon at the local Baptist Church, was shot to death by a white farmer, reportedly over a dispute about livestock. No charges were returned against the shooter by an all-white grand jury
All-white jury
An "all-white jury" is an American political term used to describe a jury in a criminal trial, or grand jury investigation, composed only of white people, with the implication that the deliberations may not be fair and unbiased...

. This was a turning point in her life and she decided to stay in the South
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 to bring about change. Several months after Miller's homicide, a cross was burned at night in front of the Miller family's residence; Grace Miller and her four daughters, including Shirley, and infant son, born after her husband's killing, were inside.

That same year, Sherrod was among the first black students to enroll in the previously all-white high school
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 in Baker County. Eleven years later, her mother Grace Miller became the first black woman elected to a county office, one she continued to hold, .

Sherrod attended Fort Valley State College
Fort Valley State University
Fort Valley State University is a historically black university located in Fort Valley, Georgia. It is also a unit of the University System of Georgia and a member school of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund...

 and later studied sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 at Albany State University
Albany State University
Albany State University is a four-year, state-supported, historically black university located in Albany, Georgia, United States. It is one of three HBCU's in the University System of Georgia.-History:-Establishment:...

 in Georgia while working for civil rights
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

. There she met her future husband, minister Charles Sherrod
Charles Sherrod
Charles Sherrod was a key member and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He became the first SNCC field secretary and SNCC director of southwest Georgia. His leadership there led to the Albany Movement...

. She went on to Antioch University
Antioch University
Antioch University is an American university with five campuses located in four states. Campuses are located in Los Angeles, California; Santa Barbara, California; Keene, New Hampshire; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and Seattle, Washington. Additionally, Antioch University houses two institution-wide...

 in Yellow Springs, Ohio
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Yellow Springs is a village in Greene County, Ohio, United States, and is the location of Antioch College and Antioch University Midwest. The population was 3,487 at the 2010 census...

, where she earned her master's degree
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 in community development
Community development
Community development is a broad term applied to the practices and academic disciplines of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens and professionals to improve various aspects of local communities....

. She returned to Georgia to work with the Department of Agriculture in Georgia "to help minority
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

 farmers keep their land."

New Communities land trust


In 1969, Sherrod and her husband were among the U.S. civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 and land collective
Collective
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project to achieve a common objective...

 activists co-founding New Communities
New Communities
New Communities was a land trust and farm collective owned and operated by approximately a dozen black farm farmers 1969 – 1985. Once one of the largest-acreage African American-owned properties in the United States, it was situated in Southwest Georgia....

, a collective farm
Collective farming
Collective farming and communal farming are types of agricultural production in which the holdings of several farmers are run as a joint enterprise...

 in Southwest Georgia
Southwest Georgia
Southwest Georgia is a thirteen-county region in the U.S. state of Georgia. A common acronym used is SOWEGA.The largest city is Albany. Counties include Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas, and Worth.In 1995, 25% of the...

 modeled on kibbutzim in Israel. According to research by Susan Witt and Robert Swann, New Communities
New Communities
New Communities was a land trust and farm collective owned and operated by approximately a dozen black farm farmers 1969 – 1985. Once one of the largest-acreage African American-owned properties in the United States, it was situated in Southwest Georgia....

' founding in 1969 was connected to the Albany Movement
Albany Movement
The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia, on November 17, 1961. Local activists, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee , and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were all involved in the movement. The movement was led by William...

. It served as a laboratory and model in a movement toward the development of Community Land Trust
Community land trust
A community land trust is a nonprofit corporation which acquires and manages land on behalf of the residents of a place-based community, while preserving affordability and preventing foreclosures for any housing located upon its land.-Key features:...

s throughout the U.S.: "The perseverance and foresight of that team in Georgia, motivated by the right of African-American farmers to farm land securely and affordably, initiated the CLT movement in this country."

Located in Lee County, Georgia
Lee County, Georgia
Lee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Georgia. As of 2000, the population was 24,757. The 2007 Census Estimate shows a population of 33,050...

, the 5700 acres (23.1 km²) project was one of the largest tracts of black-owned land in the U.S. The project encountered difficulties in the opposition of area white farmers, who accused participants of being communists, and also from segregationist Democratic Governor Lester Maddox
Lester Maddox
Lester Garfield Maddox was an American politician who was the 75th Governor of the U.S. state of Georgia from 1967 to 1971....

, who prevented development funds for the project from entering the state. A drought in the 1970s and the inability to get government loans led to the project's demise in 1985.

Class action lawsuit


After Sherrod and her husband lost their farm when they were unable to secure USDA loans, they became class action
Class action
In law, a class action, a class suit, or a representative action is a form of lawsuit in which a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court and/or in which a class of defendants is being sued...

 plaintiffs in the civil suit Pigford v. Glickman
Pigford v. Glickman
Pigford v. Glickman was a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture , alleging racial discrimination in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1983 and 1997. The lawsuit ended with a settlement on April 14, 1999, by Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S....

. The Department agreed to a settlement in which compensation was paid between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1999, in "the largest civil rights settlement in history, with nearly $1 billion being paid to more than 16,000 victims."

A federal law passed in 2008 — with then-Senator Barack Obama's sponsorship, as well as Senator Grassley of Iowa — to allow up to 70,000 more claimants to qualify, which included New Communities, for the communal farm in which Sherrod and her husband had partnered. In 2009, the chief arbitrator Michael Lewis ruled that the USDA had discriminated against New Communities by denying a loan to the operation and extending more favorable terms to white farmers. New Communities received a $12.8 million settlement, which included $8.2 million in compensation for loss of farm land, $4.2 million for loss of income and $330,000 to Sherrod and her husband for "mental anguish"
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering is the legal term for the physical and emotional stress caused from an injury .Some damages that might be under this category would be: aches, temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression or scarring...

.

Sherrod was hired by the USDA in August 2009 for the political appointee position as the Georgia director of rural development, the first black person to hold that position.

Professional positions; activism

Dates known Position Organization Comment
From 1965 Organizer Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ' was one of the principal organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It emerged from a series of student meetings led by Ella Baker held at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960...

's Southwest Georgia Project
|Co-founder Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education (among other organizations) Organized childcare and pre school programs throughout Southwest Georgia and participated in voter registration drives
1969–1985 Co-founding member;
store manager
New Communities
New Communities
New Communities was a land trust and farm collective owned and operated by approximately a dozen black farm farmers 1969 – 1985. Once one of the largest-acreage African American-owned properties in the United States, it was situated in Southwest Georgia....

 land trust
Land trust
There are two distinct definitions of a land trust:* a private, nonprofit organization that, as all or part of its mission, actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition, or by its stewardship of such land or easements; or* an agreement...

Entity went bankrupt, with most its lands sold, in 1985. In 2009, New Communities members were compensated for their losses, by settlement of a class-action suit against the USDA
Pigford v. Glickman
Pigford v. Glickman was a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture , alleging racial discrimination in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1983 and 1997. The lawsuit ended with a settlement on April 14, 1999, by Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S....

.
Prior 2009 Georgia State Lead Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative 
1985–2009 Georgia office lead Federation of Southern Cooperatives  Assisted black farmers in retaining their land
1993–1996 Fellowship awardee Kellogg National Fellowship program
1999–2000 Executive Director Community Alliances of Interdependent Agriculture
July 2009–July 2010 Georgia State Director of Rural Development U.S. Department of Agriculture On August 24, 2010, Sherrod turned down an advocacy position in Washington, D.C., with the USDA, doing internal, anti-discrimination training and outreach, offering instead to consult with the Department.
Late July 2010 No longer a federal employee (nor thus constrained by the Hatch Act
Hatch Act of 1939
The Hatch Act of 1939 is a United States federal law whose main provision is to prohibit federal employees in the executive branch of the federal government, except the President and the Vice President, from engaging in partisan political activity...

), campaigned for local Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

man

General politics


Commentators attributed the rivalry between the left and the right as an important factor in the controversy. The NAACP had passed a resolution asking the Tea Party to repudiate racist language among its members. Breitbart said he posted the videos in response. Commentators from each side noted that racial issues were being manipulated for political gain. Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

's Center for African American Studies
African American studies
African American studies is a subset of Black studies or Africana studies. It is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the history, culture, and politics of African Americans...

, said some conservatives manipulated white fears for political advantage:
I think many white Americans are fearful that with Obama in the White House, and the diversity in his appointments, that the racial balance of power is shifting. And that's frightening both because people always are afraid to give up privilege, and because of the prospect of a black-and-brown backlash against a very ugly history. Some liberals have long maintained that racism requires power, and so black people can't be racist. Obama's election undercut the first argument and made the specter of black racism appear more threatening.


Journalist Ben Smith
Ben Smith (journalist)
Ben Smith is an American political journalist and blogger for the news outlet Politico, which was frequently cited during the 2008 presidential election. He formerly wrote for the Wall Street Journal Europe, the New York Sun, the New York Observer and wrote a political column for the New York Daily...

 of The Politico
The Politico
The Politico is an American political journalism organization based in Arlington, Virginia, that distributes its content via television, the Internet, newspaper, and radio. Its coverage of Washington, D.C., includes the U.S. Congress, lobbying, media and the Presidency...

remarked,

Reactions to incident and debate about media's role


After the release of the full video, media outlets across the political spectrum criticized the decision to force Sherrod to resign.

Jeff Greenfield
Jeff Greenfield
Jeff Greenfield is an American television journalist and author.-Biography:He was born in New York City to parents Benjamin and Helen. He grew up in Manhattan and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1960. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in...

 of CBS News
CBS News
CBS News is the news division of American television and radio network CBS. The current chairman is Jeff Fager who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes, while the current president of CBS News is David Rhodes. CBS News' flagship program is the CBS Evening News, hosted by the network's main...

 criticized the role of the 24-hour news, saying,
"The old United Press International
United Press International
United Press International is a once-major international news agency, whose newswires, photo, news film and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations for most of the twentieth century...

 wire service had a slogan: 'Get it first, but first get it right'. In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod story, it's worth asking whether more and more the second half of that slogan has been dumped into the trash bin."

The BBC commented about "the absurdity of the spin-cycle in which American journalists and politicians are intertwined and about the febrile atmosphere that surrounds any story about race." The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

noted that, "Politically charged stories often take root online before being shared with a much wider audience on Fox. The television coverage, in turn, puts pressure on other news media outlets to follow up".

Mediaite
Mediaite
Mediaite is a news and opinion blog covering politics and entertainment in the media industry as well as other issues. It is the flagship blog of Abrams Media, a ring of blogs run by ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams and also featuring Gossip Cop, Geekosystem, Styleite, Sports Grid, The Mary Sue and...

's Steve Krakauer reported that although FoxNews.com broke the story, it was later reported by other online sites such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution's, and that it was repeated by a number of people on various shows and networks. He noted full coverage by other networks and channels, so Sherrod's resignation was not simply because of the Fox News coverage. Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz
Howard "Howie" Alan Kurtz is an American journalist and author with a special focus on the media. He is host of CNN's Reliable Sources program, and Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast. He is the former media writer for The Washington Post. He has written five books about the media...

 said in The Washington Post that the Fox News network, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly, did not discuss the story until after Sherrod's resignation was widely reported. Clemente of Fox News said that it was a mistake to have put the story on their website before Sherrod's resignation was announced.

In an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News, the civil rights activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. is an African-American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and served as shadow senator for the District of Columbia from 1991 to 1997. He was the founder of both entities that merged to...

 said that he regretted that coverage given to the Sherrod incident had overshadowed more important federal actions that month. The government had settled longstanding claims of racial discrimination in programs of USDA and the Department of Interior. Jackson noted the landmark nature of the national settlements of these cases and that tens of thousands of people benefited from the compensation for previous injustices. He said:
Appearing on ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

's The View on July 29, President Obama characterized the controversy over Sherrod's firing as a "bogus" one generated by the media; he said his administration overreacted in forcing her out.

Defamation lawsuit


Sherrod v. Breitbart was filed February 11, 2011, by Sherrod's attorneys, Thomas Yannucci, Michael Jones, Thomas Clare, and Beth Williams of Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland & Ellis
Kirkland & Ellis LLP is an international law firm with headquarters in Chicago, known for its profitability and its litigation, bankruptcy, intellectual property and private equity departments. Kirkland & Ellis is currently ranked as the ninth most prestigious law firm in the United States by...

, in District Court For the District of Columbia
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is a federal district court. Appeals from the District are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit The United States District Court for the District of Columbia (in case citations, D.D.C.) is a...

, naming as defendants Breitbart.com LLC Chairman and CEO Andrew Breitbart, Breitbart TV chief Larry O'Connor, and a "John Doe
John Doe
The name "John Doe" is used as a placeholder name in a legal action, case or discussion for a male party, whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld for legal reasons. The name is also used to refer to a male corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown...

," who, according to the complaint, is "an individual whose identity has been concealed by the other defendants and who, according to defendant Breitbart, was involved in the deceptive editing of the video clip and encouraged its publication with the intent to defame Mrs. Sherrod."

On April 18, Breitbart and O'Connor's attorneys – Eric Kuwana of Katten Muchin Rosenman
Rosenman & Colin
Rosenman & Colin LLP was a New York City-based law firm that practiced from 1912 to 2002, at which point the firm merged with Chicago-based Katten Muchin Zavis to form Katten Muchin Rosenman...

 and Bruce Sanford of Baker Hostetler
Baker Hostetler
Baker Hostetler is an American law firm based in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1916. One of the firm's founders, Newton D. Baker, was U.S. Secretary of War during World War I and former Mayor of Cleveland....

, respectively – filed joint motions for dismissal on U.S. First Amendment grounds, arguing that Breitbart's "1400-word, July 19, 2010 commentary...that is the subject of Sherrod’s lawsuit" was in the context of a "months-long and very loud public clash between Tea Party conservatives and the NAACP and its allies in Congress."

External links



Primary documentation
  • Text transcript, audio and video of Shirley Sherrod's NAACP Speech at AmericanRhetoric.com
  • Sherrod's full speech at CNN
    CNN
    Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

  • Defamation lawsuit at Scribd
    Scribd
    Scribd is a Web 2.0 based document-sharing website which allows users to post documents of various formats, and embed them into a web page using its iPaper format. Scribd was founded by Trip Adler, Tikhon Bernstam, and Jared Friedman in 2006...



Commentary by principals

Biographies

Works
  • Shirley Sherrod at WorldCat
    WorldCat
    WorldCat is a union catalog which itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories which participate in the Online Computer Library Center global cooperative...

  • Thesis at WorldCat
    WorldCat
    WorldCat is a union catalog which itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories which participate in the Online Computer Library Center global cooperative...