ALBANY, GA (WALB) – An Albany woman who fought for civil rights says she's unfairly labeled a racist. 62-year-old Shirley Sherrod is in our nation's headlines, following her resignation as Rural Development Director for the USDA.
She says she was forced to quit her job Monday after video of a speech to the NAACP became public.
In the video, Sherrod talks about helping a white farmer back in the 80's.
Shirley Sherrod should be at her office in Athens. Instead she's in her Albany living room under fire for what's been called racial comments, upset she was forced to pull over and resign late yesterday afternoon. "You know it just hurt," she said.
This land has been owned by 87-year-old Roger Spooner of Iron City and his family for decades, in part thanks to the help Shirley Sherrod gave the Spooners in the 80's.
"We were losing it, and I just made up my mind I wasn't going to give up, and she did too, and we got to hunting for someone to help us," said Spooner.
"Here's a white lawyer who's just telling them to give it up, and I think that's the advice they had gotten from another lawyer out of Cairo, so that's when I knew I told that lawyer that day, I can't believe you said that," Sherrod said.
Sherrod uses the Spooners' story as an example of how she overcame racial boundaries by helping them and says her comments about not wanting to do everything she could to help a white farmer were taken out of context.
"They called me a racist, of all people, they called me a racist when you look at my work, when you look at everything I've done you know that I'm not a racist," Sherrod said.
She knows it's tough on the front lines. "Being on the front line means you run into situations like this there are bumps in the road I look at it that way, this is quite a big bump though to be treated in this way," Sherrod said.
Sherrod who's fought for others rights felt she couldn't stand up to her bosses in Washington after they put her on administrative leave, then called for her resignation even though she feels she's done nothing wrong.
"I just didn't feel like I had what it took to fight them How could I fight the Department of Agriculture and the President."
She feels like no one's been willing to fight for her. "It hurts especially when the NAACP is doing it and Roland Martin is doing it. These are black people, they never asked me what happened, these are people who haven't been on the front line like I have for 45 years..."
Now the family she helped is trying to return the favor. They're going on the record saying she's not racist.
"I didn't feel like she mistreated us in any way, or didn't come up with everything she knew how," said Spooner.
Forced to give up her job, Sherrod doesn't know what's next. "I don't know I haven't had a chance to think about it."
All she knows is she wants to continue to help others.
Sherrod's worked for the USDA since being appointed to the rural development director's position a year ago. She was charged with managing more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure programs and $114 billion in federal loans.
She told us she wants to talk to the Spooners face to face.
Click HERE to see the Youtube video that caused all the controversy