WASHINGTON - A bombshell accusation by the left against fired U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod regarding alleged grossly improper labor practices against black farm workers in the 1970s is causing members of the Project 21 black leadership network to speak out.
"There has been a mighty effort by liberals to present Shirley Sherrod as a victim -- even a saint-like figure. However, after revelations that her husband, Charles, is an anti-white bigot and that she adheres to class warfare politics, it's now being alleged that Ms. Sherrod presided over the crass exploitation of poor black workers on a southwest Georgia agricultural 'plantation,'" said Project 21 member Joe R. Hicks.
Hicks, a former executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and currently host of "The Hicks File" at PJTV.com, added: "The fellow making the claim is none other than Ron Wilkins, an ex-SNCC organizer, who should know what he's talking about. Wilkins says he once worked on the Sherrod-managed plantation in the 1970s. I know this guy from the early days of 'Black Power' politics in Los Angeles and he's known to be a straight shooter. If Wilkins claims are proven to be true, Sherrod owes an explanation and an apology -- not only to Wilkins but the other black farm workers she misused."
In an article posted on the left-wing Counterpunch web site on August 2, Ron Wilkins reported that Shirley Sherrod and her husband, Charles, helped manage the New Communities, Inc. farm in Albany, Georgia in the 1970s. Wilkins claimed the Sherrods and other managers "under-paid, mistreated and fired black laborers -- many of them less than 16 years of age -- in the same fields of southwest Georgia where their ancestors suffered under chattel slavery."
Wilkins, a former organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who is now a professor at California State University - Dominguez Hills, says he infiltrated the NCI operation in 1974 on behalf of a group overseeing NCI called the Emergency Land Fund. Wilkins claims his later efforts to organize NCI workers while working there led to his firing, eviction for an NCI-owned "shack" and arrest on "bogus" charges.
In 1974, 67 cents had the purchasing power of $2.91 in 2009 dollars according to the website measuringworth.com. Wilkins claims he made $40 a week ($174 in 2009 dollars) at the time he was fired. His 2010 claims about conditions at the NCI farm and managers' anti-labor behavior are reported in a September 28, 1974 article in the United Farm Workers newspaper El Malcriado -- which specifically cites Charles Sherrod as a manager of the farm.
"It truly is shocking to see someone supposedly dedicated to civil rights now exposed for her involvement in the ugly exploitation of black workers approaching their total abuse in the ante-bellum South," said Deroy Murdock, a Project 21 member who is also a nationally-syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and media fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "Once again, those on the right are supposed to be the 'bad guys' who make life difficult for black Americans. Yet here we have Shirley Sherrod, hailed as a black civil rights leader, allegedly taking advantage of poor black Americans, keeping them poor and firing those who complain about mistreatment."
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992.