Hawkins V. Town of Shaw was a class action civil rights lawsuit, in which Mr. Andrew Hawkins prevailed as a successful plaintiff against the Town for the unequal distribution of municipal services and infrastructure. This case set national precedence across the entire United States. After Hawkins v. Town of Shaw set national precedence, other people used it as grounds for filing lawsuits against their municipalities and won.
The Shaw School District was the first to be integrated by a Black teacher in the Mississippi Delta. That teacher is Mrs. Jessie F. Williams.
Shaw is where the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union (MFLU) originated under Mr. Andrew Hawkins with the help of Freedom Summer and civil rights participants according to the Freedom Summer participant Mary Sue Gattalty-Short.
Shaw elected its first black Mayor, Mr. Gregory Flippins on June 7, 1977. He beat his opponent the Incumbent Mayor, Davis Burns who received 395 votes, to his 451 votes for a total of 846 votes cast that day.
Herman Smith was elected April 7, 1970 as the first Black in Shaw to be elected to any governing board in the Town. He was elected to the City Council as an Alderman in a special election to fill the vacant seat of Alderman H. M. Jordan after his death. The board makeup was four Whites to one Black. The Mayor was P.M. Bennett. The Aldermen were R. B. Flannagan, Frank Salley, Davis Burns, Tim Tarver Langston and Herman Smith. Smith was on the board during the Hawkins V. Town of Shaw lawsuit and remained there for the entire duration of the case which was first filed in 1969 and ended in the summer of 1972.
Black businesses and property were well represented in Shaw in the early days before and during the civil rights movement. Here is a listing of some of those businesses: a Black tailor shop and cleaners (Mr. Tom McEvans), large real estate holder and cafe owner (Mr. William Byrd), owner of the land in the Boatwright addition (Annie Boatwright and husband), Ruth’s Grocery (Ms. Ruth McWilliams), medical family practitioner (Dr. Searcy), hair dressers (Mrs. Josie Woods and Mrs. Johnnie Mae Stewart-Douglass), funeral home and burial society (Mr. Tom McEvans, Mr. Frank Cleveland), “Ms. Tonz” Grocery Store (Ms. Gertrude Torrence), Roy’s Lounge (Mr. Roy Mcgee, Sr.), and Sam Jr. Cafe (Mr. Sam Singleton, Jr.), to name a few.
White/Italian/Asian businesses were also well represented in Shaw in the early days before and during the civil rights movement. Shaw Lumber Yard (Mr. Guy Simpson), medical family practitioners (Dr. Peeler, Dr. Riddell, Dr. Field), major grocery stores (Woo Grocery, Piggly Wiggly, JM Mark, Leadway), clothing stores (5 and Dime, Jeanette Landoff, Harry Rubenstein), cotton gin (Harold Tapley Cottin Gin, Litton’s Gin, Daniel Sullivan), and many more.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Case No. 437 F.2d 1286) ordered the Town of Shaw for form a Bi-Racial Committee that included Black citizens from Shaw to advice the all white city council on resolving the disparities issues. Charles Bartley, Sr. submitted these names for that committee: Mrs. Velma Barley, Mrs. Edna Earl Moore, and Mr. Sylvester Kyles, Jr. to the City Council on October 7, 1975. The City Council accepted the names and added them to the committee.