USDA official resigns after racist remarks against a white farmer

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.


Washington, July 20 – Shirley Sherrod, Georgia’s state Director for USDA Rural Development, resigned yesterday after a video surfaced showing her making comments at an NAACP event about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy. 


In her controversial speech, Sherrod, who is black, discussed the first time she was "faced with having to help a white farmer save his farm." She claimed that during the conversation, the man "was trying to show me he was superior to me."


"I was struggling with the fact that so many black people have lost their farmland and here I was faced with having to help a white person save their land -- so I didn't give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough."


The video clip was first posted by The clip is dated March 27 from an NAACP Freedom Fund banquet. For You Tube Video link with her remarks:


The Agriculture Department announced Monday, shortly after published its initial report on the video that Sherrod had resigned.


"There is zero tolerance for discrimination at USDA, and I strongly condemn any act of discrimination against any person," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement. "We have been working hard through the past 18 months to reverse the checkered civil rights history at the department and take the issue of fairness and equality very seriously.

Shirley Sherrod was appointed Georgia Director for Rural Development by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on July 25. Only days earlier, she learned that New Communities, a group she founded with her husband and other families, won a thirteen million dollar settlement in the black farmers law suit (Pigford vs Vilsack).


On Tuesday, Sherrod told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.


Sherrod said the short video clip excluded the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with the farmer and his wife. She used the story to explain how racism can be overcome.


However, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous condemned her remarks.


“We concur with US Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in accepting the resignation of Shirley Sherrod for her remarks at a local NAACP Freedom Fund banquet.

Racism is about the abuse of power. Sherrod had it in her position at USDA. According to her remarks, she mistreated a white farmer in need of assistance because of his race.

We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.

Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.”

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