The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Shirley Sherrod says she’ll never work for the government again

Shirley Sherrod’s been busy. Too busy, in fact, to miss her brief tenure as a federal employee.

“I just came back to my community and got involved again,” said Sherrod, who in 2010 was famously fired from her job with the USDA after being falsely accused of racism. Since then Sherrod’s helped train young farmers, planted community gardens at local schools in her hometown of Albany, Georgia and recently bought a 1600-acre former plantation. And yet the spotlight of her political scandal still follows her around.

“There are still people out there who think I’m a racist,” Sherrod told us in a recent interview. “Breitbart made it impossible for me to work for the federal government again.”

It was the summer of 2010 when Andrew Breitbart, the late conservative blogger, published a doctored video of a little known Agriculture Department official supposedly making racist remarks about a white farmer. Within a week’s news cycle Sherrod was forced to resign, condemned by the NAACP and then eventually offered her job back by an apologetic Obama administration. In 2011 Sherrod sued Breitbart, his employee Larry O’Connor and an unnamed defendant for defamation. The lawsuit is pending.

“When you heard the tape you would think I had spent my life working for the government but I didn’t get a chance to work for the government but eleven months,” Sherrod said from her offices in Georgia. “So I don’t see a time when I would be working for the government again.”

Recently New Communities Inc., a collective farm co-founded by Sherrod in 1969 with plans to establish a Israeli-style kibbutz in southwest Georgia, purchased a 1600-acre former plantation called Cypress Pond.

“It’s a major piece of property that means so much to so many,” said Sherrod, who will give the keynote address at the 26th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner on Friday in Maryland. “We hope to do some great things, not just for black people. We see it as a place for racial healing.”