Charles Sherrod (born 1937)  was a key member and organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the Civil Rights Movement. He became the first SNCC field secretary and SNCC director of southwest Georgia. His leadership there led to the Albany Movement. He also participated in the Selma Voting Rights Movement and in many other arenas of the 1960s movement era.
A supporter of racial integration, he recruited white as well as black members to assist with voter registration efforts. In 1966, he left the SNCC after recently elected chairman Stokely Carmichael expelled white members. He moved north, to New York City, where he received his master's degree in sacred theology from the Union Theological Seminary. He then returned home to direct the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education. In 1969, Sherrod, his wife Shirley, and some other members of the Albany Movement helped pioneer the land trust movement in the U.S., co-founding New Communities, a collective farm in Southwest Georgia modeled on kibbutzim in Israel. He served as an elected member of the Albany City Council from 1976 to 1990.
In 1961 SNCC was recruiting new students to join Rock Hill, South Carolina. This is how Charles Sherrod came to be in the organization. Before becoming a member of SNCC Sherrod attended Virginia Union College in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1961 he was among one of four students (Diane Nash, Charles Jones and Ruby Doris Smith being the other 3) to drop-out of college to become a full time civil rights activist and member of SNCC. When the four students arrived in Rock Hill, they almost immediately engaged on sit-ins to fight back against segregation. After only spending one day in Rock Hill all four of the college students were arrested because of a sit-in they participated in, at a local diner. Like many activist the students at the time chose jail with bail in attempt to overcrowd the jails, and they were sentenced to 30 days hard labor. When Charles was released from jail he became a great contributing member towards SNCC and was often referred to as one of the founding fathers. By working his way up in the organization, he was named the director and field secretary. Rather than returning back to school in the fall he moved to become a full-time organizer to stimulate new black initiatives in intensively segregated and Klan-dominated local communities in Albany, Georgia (later joined by Cordell Reagon in October 1961). Sherrod helped organize the Albany Movement by planning sit-ins and jail-ins. Sherrod helped organize the Albany Movement by planning sit-ins and jail-ins. Sherrod's main goal was fighting for voter's registrations rights. Other things he felt passionate about was the end of segregation terminals at a bus station and desegregating interstate travel.
Before Charles Sherrod initiated the Albany Movement, his earlier battles in the civil rights movement took place in the streets of Albany where he alongside Cordell Reagon, fought for voter's registration rights. Charles who was twenty-two at the time and Cordell Reagon eighteen, were both very well known throughout the movement despite their young age. During their time together as SNCC's leaders they held many learning sessions on how to engage in nonviolent strategies for Albany students in anticipation of major conflict with the police.
During Charles' time working with SNCC he received many death threats from white southerners saying, "I'll blow your brains out". Some of these threats were done in person with a gun held to his head, while other threats came over the phone. These kinds of actions happened on a daily basis and during SNCC's 50th anniversary Sherrod stated "So we had to continually day by every day deal with fear"
Charles Sherrod left SNCC at the end of 1966 due to the head of SNCC, Stockily Carmichael's, plan to exclude whites from the organization. Sherrod did not agree with Stockily Carmichael and decided to put his efforts towards the SWGAP (Southwest Georgia Project).
After Leaving SNCC Sherrod and his wife Shirley Sherrod started taking part in the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education. The work done in Albany helped ease the movement into 15 different counties throughout Southwest Georgia. Charles then started recruiting many students from his former college where he received his master's degree. The Union Theological Seminary.
From Charles while in jail 1961 "You get ideas in jail. You talk with other young people you have never seen. Right away we recognize each other. People like yourself getting out of the past we are up all night sharing creativity planning action. You learn the truth in prison, you learn wholeness you find out the difference between being dead and alive"
"The first obstacle to remove... was the mental Block in the minds of those who wanted to move but were not who we said we were. But when people began to hear us in churches, social meetings, on the streets, in the pool halls, lunchrooms, nightclubs and other places where people gather, they began to open up a bit. We would tell them of how it feels to be in prison, what it means to behind bars, in jail for the cause. We explain to them that we had stopped school because we felt compelled to do so since so many of us were in chains. We explained further that there were worse chains than jail and prison...we mocked the system that teaches men to be good Negros instead of good men"
References and footnotes
- "This Far by Faith," PBS Series
- Entry on "Charles Sherrod" in The Black Past
- Bachman, Megan (July 29, 2010). "Antioch alumna draws spotlight". Yellow Springs News.
- Witt, Susan; Swann, Robert (1996). "Land: Challenge and Opportunity". In Vitak, William; Jackson, Wes. Rooted in the land: essays on community and place. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 246. ISBN 0-300-06961-8. Retrieved August 8, 2010.
- "SNCC 50th anniversary planning committee"[permanent dead link]
- Jr., Cobb, Charles E., (2008). On the road to freedom : a guided tour of the civil rights trail (1st ed ed.). Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. pp. 141, 142, 179, 180–185, 188, 189. ISBN 9781565124394. OCLC 132581825.
- The Eyes on the prize : civil rights reader : documents, speeches, and firsthand accounts from the Black freedom struggle, 1954-1990. Carson, Clayborne, 1944-. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Penguin Books. 1991. pp. 133, 134. ISBN 0140154035. OCLC 23213446.
- Voices of freedom : an oral history of the civil rights movement from the 1950s through the 1980s. Hampton, Henry, 1940-1998., Fayer, Steve, 1935-, Flynn, Sarah, 1950-. New York: Bantam Books. 1990. pp. 98, 99, 114. ISBN 9780553352320. OCLC 20628084.
- "This Far by Faith . Charles Sherrod | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2018-03-06.
- Foundation, Mary Reynolds Babcock (2015-02-06), Shirley Sherrod: Splitting with SNCC and founding SWGAP, retrieved 2018-03-06
- SNCC Digital Gateway: Charles Sherrod, Documentary website created by the SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University, telling the story of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee & grassroots organizing from the inside-out
- "Sherrod, Charles", Black Past
- "The civil rights heroism of Charles Sherrod", Salon, July 22, 2010
- "Sherrods Tell Black Press Where America Must Go From Here", Black Voice News, July 26, 2010