(Baltimore) — NAACP Executive Vice President and Chief of Programs Steven W. Hawkins has been selected to take the helm of Amnesty International USA as its Executive Director, both organizations announced today. Hawkins has been a part of the senior leadership team that led the Association through a five-year period of financial growth and political prominence.
“I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to lead Amnesty International USA, the organization that has not just led, but effectively defined, the global human rights agenda for more than 50 years,” said Hawkins. “I am looking forward to working with their excellent team to continue to expose human rights abuses and mobilize the American public.”
Hawkins began his career as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where, for nearly six years, he represented African American men facing the death penalty throughout the deep South. During this period, Hawkins investigated and brought litigation that led to the successful release of three Black teens who were wrongfully convicted in Tennessee.
As Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Hawkins developed several initiatives that addressed racial disparities in capital sentencing, including a campaign that ultimately led to eradication of the death penalty for juvenile crimes. From there he moved to the world of philanthropy, working for both the JEHT Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies. Hawkins joined the NAACP in 2008 to serve as Executive Vice President under President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.
“Steve has one of the very best strategic minds in the civil and human rights communities, and he’s dedicated his professional life to advancing social justice,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Amnesty International USA could not have selected a more perfect match for their storied organization, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with Steve and Amnesty in the years ahead.”
“Steve Hawkins has an innate understanding of grassroots advocacy and the power of people to affect social change. He will be a galvanizing force in inspiring and engaging our members, volunteers, supporters, and staff,” said Shahram Hashemi, board chair of Amnesty International USA. “We are excited and honored to have Steve at the helm. He is a leader with the heart, compassion, vision, and drive to help us win the human rights battles ahead.”
Hawkins begins his new post in September.