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March 21: Shirley Sherrod is keynote speaker at Hood

Friday, March 21, 2014

FREDERICK, Md.—A former federally appointed executive who became the subject of a controversy when she was wrongly accused of making racist remarks during a speech will give a lecture March 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hodson Auditorium in Rosenstock Hall at Hood College.

Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia state director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will give a talk entitled The Courage to Hope, followed by a book signing.

The event is part of the College's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

A longtime advocate for poor and African American farmers, Sherrod was appointed to the USDA in 2009. In 2010, blogger Andrew Breitbart commented and posted on his website a partial video of Sherrod's address at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People event that, taken out of context, appeared to be racist in nature. Based on those excerpts, the NAACP condemned her remarks and U.S. government officials called for her resignation.

A subsequent review of the entire speech made it clear she was actually making the opposite point, that racism is wrong. The NAACP, USDA and White House officials apologized, offering her a new high-level internal advocacy position with the USDA, which she ultimately declined.

In 1969 Sherrod and her husband, Charles, helped form New Communities, a land trust that held 6,000 acres of land in Lee County, Ga. One of the largest tracts of black-owned land in the U.S., it served as a laboratory and model in the movement toward the development of community land trusts throughout the U.S. until the project folded in 1985.

Sherrod earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Albany State University, where she was active with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and a master's degree in community development from Antioch University in Ohio.

Other 50th anniversary events at Hood include a lecture by Fred Gray, a civil right attorney and activist who came into prominence working with Martin Luther King Jr., E.D. Nixon, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Improvement Association during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, and defending the victims of the Tuskegee syphilis study; and a singing workshop April 16 led by Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey and the Rock.

Fiftieth anniversary events are also sponsored by the Robert D. and Barbara E. Hanson Fund of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities and Frederick County Bank.

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