Meet the Hawkins

Mr. Andrew Hawkins

Mr. Andrew Hawkins, Sr. (May 16, 1918 – April 17, 2000) is from Shaw, MS.  He was married to civil rights advocate Mrs. Mary Lou “Mae Lou” Hawkins.  He was a carpenter, a quiet and observative man who had “A Selfless Vision and Mission.” He had no way of predicting the future, but he knew there was danger involved; he simply wanted to help pave the way for a better future.  He was no stranger to Mr. Amzie Moore or Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.

Mr. Andrew Hawkins, Sr. was the lead plaintiff in the national civil rights case of Hawkins v. Town of Shaw.  It was a class action lawsuit against the Town of Shaw for the discriminatory distribution in municipal services and infrastructure provided to the Black neighborhoods, which was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Black neighborhoods were riddled with the presence of raw sewage (human waste), unpaved roads, poor street lightning, practically no traffic control signs, limited access to fire hydrants, and no access for storm water drainage resulting in flooding.  White neighborhoods were provided modern upgrades which eliminated the presence of raw sewage, paved roads, better street lightning, increased number of traffic control signs, increase in the number of fire hydrants, and better storm water drainage to prevent flooding.  The case appeared before the courts three times (1969, 1971, and 1972).  It was first heard in the United States District Court for the Northern District in Mississippi in 1969.  It then went on to the United States District Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit in 1971 and again in 1972.  Hawkins v. Town of Shaw is considered to be as important to the American Civil Rights movement as Brown v. Board of Education for the precedence in making it illegal to provide municipal services in a discriminatory manner regardless of race or economic status.  It paved the way for others to file lawsuits against municipal governments in communities across the United States.

In May 1965, the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union (MFLU) was an organized farm workers strike that demanded better working wages of $1.25 an hour (up from .30 cents an hour).  The strike spread across other Delta Towns (e.g., Rosedale, Sidon, Cleveland, Tribett) in Mississippi. Though some call it a defeat because plantation owners did not raise wages, but the movement was one of the influencers of change across the cotton belt Delta which strengthened the civil rights movement and spread to other towns. 

Mrs. Mary Lou Hawkins

Mrs. Mary Lou Hawkins (April 18, 1907 – April 30, 1972) is from Shaw, MS.  She was married to civil rights pioneer, Mr. Andrew Hawkins, Sr.  She was a short but outspoken woman. Together alongside her husband became known as the face and voice of many civil rights activities in Shaw. Mary Lou was fearless for the sake of justice.  In July 1965, she was arrested while participating in a demonstration march at the MS State capitol in Jackson protesting against the segregationist laws in Mississippi.

Education was important to her, she strongly contested against Black children having to attend schools that operated on the split-term track.  She worked alongside her husband, other Shaw citizens, and civil rights volunteers (e.g., SNCC, Freedom Riders, etc.) to mobilize citizens to participate in the farm workers strike also referred to as the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union strike which originated out of Shaw but spread to other cities in Mississippi (e.g., Cleveland, Rosedale, Tribett, Sidon) and topped off to include over 1000 farm workers across the Delta.  The strike was in protest of the poor wages farm workers made picking cotton.  They demanded better working wages of $1.25 an hour (up from .30 cents an hour).  As result of the farm workers strike, she was in charge of “Community Relief Fund” which collected monies, food, and clothing for those families that participated in the strike because working the farms was the lead employment for many Black families in Shaw and the Delta.  Her efforts were successful in galvanizing supporters from Northern states to send relief to support those families.  Although her husband, Andrew was the lead plaintiff in the national civil rights case of Hawkins v. Town of Shaw, she was highly involved.  Because of her involvement, on April 30, 1972, Mary Lou Hawkins was murdered by local police officer Lee “Andrew” Sharpe with a single gunshot to the heart.  Her murder was one day before she was to accompany her husband to court for the final ruling on the case before the United States District Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit.  Reports allege that Mrs. Hawkins was murder in self-defense by Officer Sharpe who said, she pulled a knife on him.  But according to her daughter who was at her mother’s side and others who testified in the inquest, Mary Lou never had a knife.  Despite her murder, Mr. Hawkins still went to court on May 1, 1972 and the appeal court ruled in his favor, awarding him over $200,000 in relief for the Town of Shaw.

Andrew Hawkins, Jr.

Born: December 7, 1950 – Died: March 16, 1979

Bernadette Hawkins

Born: November 22, 1967 – Died: March 16, 1979

Mary Yvette Hawkins

Born: May 31, 1980 – Died: March 16, 1979