Persistence and Progress

Charles Sherrod was born in Virginia in 1937. He never knew his father and was raised by his grandmother. He was deeply religious and began preaching to his friends at a young age. His religious faith gave him his purpose in life.

Charles was an outstanding student earning a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Theology. His ministerial preparation gave him the skills to become a civil rights activist. His first activist role was an effort to integrate churches.

He became one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He was sent to Albany in southwest Georgia, the heart of the Jim Crow south. He spent six decades in Albany. The main effort in Albany was winning the right to vote.

Charles favored direct actions to win basic civil rights. Other African Americans wanted to negotiate. Charles recruited local students to support the direct actions he proposed. More than 500 students participated and were beaten and arrested. Martin Luther King, Jr. considered the direct actions a failure since they created limited national outrage. But Charles viewed the civil rights process from a longer-term point of view. Eventually Charles’ persistence won out.

Charles believed that civil rights was an issue of morality that should be of concern to all Americans regardless of their race. He recruited White ministers to join with him. But SNCC leadership was against integration in their fight for civil rights. This led Charles to leave SNCC.

Charles continued to advocate for civil rights for his entire life. His approach was a contrast to that of Martin Luther King, Jr. He felt that gains in civil rights came from persistent efforts that continued until rights were achieved. He viewed King’s efforts as more promotional than persistent.

He died in 2022 at the age of 85. He is little known today and his passing was scarcely recognized. Hidden heroes often view their work as on-going. They achieve success through a continuing dripping of efforts, not a sudden surge which is quickly dissipated.

* * *

“Nothing could stop the people, certainly not jail, or the threat of jail, not even death.” – Charles Sherrod commenting on the continuation of protests after Martin Luther King, Jr. had left.

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.