The Hawkins Project background –
Hawkins V. Town of Shaw was an historical class-action lawsuit that was initiated in 1969 and endured until the plaintiffs prevailed in 1972 in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The lawsuit as titled “Andrew Hawkins, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Town of Shaw, et al., Defendants” was a fight to “restrain defendants from discriminating because of race and poverty in providing the inhabitants with certain municipal services, namely: streets, paving and street lighting, sanitary sewers, water mains and fire hydrants, and surface water drainage”1. As a result of the plaintiffs (Mr. Hawkins, et al.) winning the case the Town of Shaw was required to establish a plan of “appropriate remedy and to frame the appropriate relief” 2. This historic ruling is still being used today for other cases, although many locals don’t know the story or the large significance of this monumental ruling that occurred in the middle of the Mississippi Delta.
The purpose of the Hawkins Project is to research the story of the Hawkins family and other key players of the Civil Rights movement; discover and document the full effect that this case had on individuals, families, the town, the state of Mississippi, and the nation; and finally to present a theatrical interpretation of the findings. Engaging with the community, exploring the documented history and collecting the materials in one physical space is the first half of a two-pronged project. Following the “Engage and Document” portion of the project will be the “Present and Mobilize” portion by hosting public performances of the play and allowing for Question & Answer sessions following each performance. Also associated with this final phase of the project are the curriculum elements provided to K-12 teachers to allow their students the opportunity to become familiar with the subject prior to engaging with the performance as well as recommended ‘follow-up’ discussion/activity recommendations.
– excerpt from the grant proposal approved by the Mississippi Humanities Council, 2019.