Born in 1937 in Petersburg, VA, Charles Sherrod in 1961 became SNCC's first full-time Field Secretary. He was SNCC's Project Director in Southwest Georgia.
When the sit-ins began, Charles Sherrod was a student of religion at Virginia Union University. He helped staged local sit-ins at department stores in Richmond. He participated in SNCC’s founding conference in April 1960, and after being arrested in Rock Hill, South Carolina with fellow student activists Diane Nash, Ruby Doris Smith, and Charles Jones, they pioneered SNCC’s Jail-No-Bail strategy, serving out the full 30-day sentence. In the fall of 1961, Sherrod and Nashville, Tennessee activist, Cordell Reagon, began working as SNCC field secretaries in Albany, Georgia, the regional center of Southwest Georgia. Notoriously known as a region of anti-Black terrorism as vicious as Mississippi, Sherrod hoped to use the small city as a base for voter registration activity in the surrounding rural counties.
Digging into Albany, Sherrod realized that breaking the people’s deeply ingrained fear was the first order of business. “It took me a long time to get an old fellow who said yessah and no ‘suh, and understand how to reach them,” he explained. But when he did, Charles Sherrod helped forge a community so empowered that Bernice Johnson (Reagon), one of the first local students to join SNCC’s efforts, called it the “the mother load.” “If you can imagine Black people at our most powerful point, in terms of community, and people-hood,” she said, “then that’s Albany Georgia.”
Charles Sherrod never left Southwest Georgia. When SNCC decided to expel its white members from decision-making in 1967, Sherrod resigned, stating, “I didn’t leave SNCC, SNCC left me.” He continued directing the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, and he and his wife, Shirley, established New Communities, a Black-owned cooperative farm in Lee County, that ran into the late 1980s. “The Southwest Georgia project still lives in south Georgia,” he said, “We’re still working.” (Source: SNCC Digital Gateway).