Today Shirley Sherrod, who is a member of our Board of Directors, gave a presentation to our staff about “Arc of Justice,” a new documentary film that tells the story of black farmers in America as well as her and her husband Charles Sherrod’s personal stories of co-founding the nation’s first community land trust, New Communities, in 1969. The film also includes the Sherrod’s latest endeavor, purchasing and reinventing a former plantation. Located near Albany, Georgia the Cypress Pond Plantation (now renamed Resora) includes 1600+ acres of land formerly managed by one of the largest slave-holding families in Georgia’s history.
“Arc of Justice” traces the remarkable story of New Communities, Inc., a story of racial justice, community organizing, and perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles. NCI was started in 1969 by leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in southwest Georgia to help secure economic independence for African American families. For fifteen years, NCI cooperatively farmed nearly 6000 acres of land in the face of racist attacks and refusals by federal agencies to provide grants or loans. Its land was lost to foreclosure in 1985, but 25 years later NCI was given new life as a result of a successful class action lawsuit brought by hundreds of African American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The film was produced by Helen Cohen and Mark Lipman of Open Studios Productions and was supported by funding from The Ford Foundation. The filmmakers write that, “Arc of Justice, part of the Streets of Dreams series, will trace the rise, fall, and rebirth of the first modern community land trust that was established in 1970 in Southwest Georgia.”
A big thanks from our staff to Shirley for sharing her story and the film with us today, and we look forward to seeing the new film on TV and hopefully on the big screen very soon!