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The Courage to Hope: How I Stood Up to the Right-Wing Media, the Obama Administration, and the Forces of Fear

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In the summer of 2010, Shirley Sherrod was catapulted into a media storm that blew apart her life and her job doing what she’d done for decades: helping poor, hardworking people live the American dream. She was a lifelong activist who served as Georgia’s first black director of rural development. A right-wing blogger, the now late Andrew Breitbart, disseminated a video In the summer of 2010, Shirley Sherrod was catapulted into a media storm that blew apart her life and her job doing what she’d done for decades: helping poor, hardworking people live the American dream. She was a lifelong activist who served as Georgia’s first black director of rural development. A right-wing blogger, the now late Andrew Breitbart, disseminated a video clip of a speech Sherrod had given to the Georgia NAACP, intending to make her an example of “reverse racism.” The right-wing media ramped up the outrage, and before Sherrod had a chance to defend herself, the Obama administration demanded her resignation. Then, after hearing from Sherrod herself and learning the entire truth of what she said in that speech, the administration tried to backtrack. As public officials and media professionals admitted to being duped and apologized for their rush to judgment, Sherrod found herself the subject of a teachable moment. The Courage to Hope addresses this regret-table episode in American politics, but it also tells Sherrod’s own story of growing up on a farm in southwest Georgia during the final violent years of Jim Crow. As a child she dreamed of leaving the South, but when her father was murdered by a white neighbor who was never brought to justice, Sherrod made a vow to stay in Georgia and commit herself to the cause of truth and racial healing. With her husband, Charles, a legend in the civil rights movement, she has devoted her life to empowering poor people and rural communities—Americans who are most in need. The incident that brought Sherrod into the spotlight does not define her life and work, but it strengthens her commitment to stand against the politics of fear and have the courage to hope


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In the summer of 2010, Shirley Sherrod was catapulted into a media storm that blew apart her life and her job doing what she’d done for decades: helping poor, hardworking people live the American dream. She was a lifelong activist who served as Georgia’s first black director of rural development. A right-wing blogger, the now late Andrew Breitbart, disseminated a video In the summer of 2010, Shirley Sherrod was catapulted into a media storm that blew apart her life and her job doing what she’d done for decades: helping poor, hardworking people live the American dream. She was a lifelong activist who served as Georgia’s first black director of rural development. A right-wing blogger, the now late Andrew Breitbart, disseminated a video clip of a speech Sherrod had given to the Georgia NAACP, intending to make her an example of “reverse racism.” The right-wing media ramped up the outrage, and before Sherrod had a chance to defend herself, the Obama administration demanded her resignation. Then, after hearing from Sherrod herself and learning the entire truth of what she said in that speech, the administration tried to backtrack. As public officials and media professionals admitted to being duped and apologized for their rush to judgment, Sherrod found herself the subject of a teachable moment. The Courage to Hope addresses this regret-table episode in American politics, but it also tells Sherrod’s own story of growing up on a farm in southwest Georgia during the final violent years of Jim Crow. As a child she dreamed of leaving the South, but when her father was murdered by a white neighbor who was never brought to justice, Sherrod made a vow to stay in Georgia and commit herself to the cause of truth and racial healing. With her husband, Charles, a legend in the civil rights movement, she has devoted her life to empowering poor people and rural communities—Americans who are most in need. The incident that brought Sherrod into the spotlight does not define her life and work, but it strengthens her commitment to stand against the politics of fear and have the courage to hope

30 review for The Courage to Hope: How I Stood Up to the Right-Wing Media, the Obama Administration, and the Forces of Fear

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I met Shirley Sherrod through a project she was part of connecting the Federation of Southern Cooperatives' black family watermelon farmers and Red Tomato here in Massachusetts. I knew how amazing Shirley and her husband, Charles Sherrod are. I only knew the surface of their incredible life struggles. I was deeply moved by Shirley's courage to write so honestly, compassionately and humbly about the very difficult challenges she has faced in her life journey to combat racism, discrimination and I met Shirley Sherrod through a project she was part of connecting the Federation of Southern Cooperatives' black family watermelon farmers and Red Tomato here in Massachusetts. I knew how amazing Shirley and her husband, Charles Sherrod are. I only knew the surface of their incredible life struggles. I was deeply moved by Shirley's courage to write so honestly, compassionately and humbly about the very difficult challenges she has faced in her life journey to combat racism, discrimination and fear. The story of being fired by the Obama administration is a chilling reminder of how far we have come and yet how far we have to go. This book should be read by every US reader. Thank you for sharing your story Shirley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    This book was a book club read. I am glad I read it because it is important to know specifically how politics, racism, and fear infect the process of helping people who are entitled to and eligible for the help they need to prosper. The word 'entitlement' has become a bad thing as has the word 'liberal' but they are good words that speak to what a democracy is supposed to be. Mrs. Sherrod not only tells us what actually happened when she was unceremoniously fired from her USDA Director's This book was a book club read. I am glad I read it because it is important to know specifically how politics, racism, and fear infect the process of helping people who are entitled to and eligible for the help they need to prosper. The word 'entitlement' has become a bad thing as has the word 'liberal' but they are good words that speak to what a democracy is supposed to be. Mrs. Sherrod not only tells us what actually happened when she was unceremoniously fired from her USDA Director's position, but she tells us about her background as a product of the segregated South, her commitment to the civil rights movement, and her devotion to helping poor people in rural Georgia at great personal sacrifice. Mrs. Sherrod is not special and she is quick to note same; she is an intelligent, committed woman whose honesty was turned on her by those who were determined to not only discredit her, but also President Obama and the NAACP. The rush to judgment in her case speaks to the politics of fear, but her experience is one many of us can identify with- when you are doing what's right and it is all undermined by those who are intent on doing wrong.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    975.8043 S5538 2012

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Bess

    If I read "so we went to Washington" one more time in this book! It was a story about her husband.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Margy

    A challenging and fascinating life story through which to view issues of race and racialized politics in the United States.

  6. 5 out of 5

    James Rogers

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Hall-russell

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pat Lively

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Tatro

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Mumpower-spriggs

  12. 5 out of 5

    Camille

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kendall Hill

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Oertel

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Orlopp

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  19. 5 out of 5

    Novel Destination

  20. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

  21. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tannie Bradley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paula Pharr

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Helene

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joan

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dottie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ari

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Schimers

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