NAACP Executive Vice President to Head Amnesty International USA

(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.” 

Mr. Hawkins begins his new post in September.

The following are statements of support for Mr. Hawkins from leaders in the civil and human rights community:

"Steve has a long, successful track record in fighting for -- and winning big on -- our human and civil rights, particularly in his groundbreaking leadership working against the death penalty," said Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. "His commitment to human rights, social justice, and climate justice is inspiring. Amnesty International - and each of us - is blessed to have his leadership in this crucial moment for defending our rights."

“Amnesty International has made an outstanding choice in tapping Steve Hawkins to head its U.S. operations,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Steve has had a distinguished career in the civil and human rights community and will bring skills, energy and integrity to his new post. I look forward to the continued vitality and leadership on domestic human rights from Amnesty under Steve’s stewardship.”

"Steve Hawkins has built his career around human rights in the United States and protecting the most vulnerable among us," said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of "I am very excited to see him take on this crucial new role."

“Steve Hawkins is a pragmatic visionary who has already changed the landscape of social justice and human rights in the United States for communities of color,” said Cathy Albisa, Executive Director of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative. “Without question, he will lead AIUSA on the international stage with the same mix of integrity, deep intelligence and effectiveness that he has brought to the US human rights movement.”

"Steve's experience in philanthropy gives  him an important window into understanding first-hand what donors value and expect, and will serve him well as he takes on this challenging new role," said Robert Crane, former president of the JEHT Foundation.


Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities.  Read more about the NAACP’s work and our five “Game Changer” issue areas here.

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