Digital Collection: Edler Hawkins | Presbyterian Historical Society

You are here

Digital Collection: Edler Hawkins

April 24, 2023
Left: Rev. Edler Hawkins, undated. Right: Commonplace book, 1940s-1960s.

Thanks to PHS Board member Michael Livingston, we've recently digitized a collection of the records of Edler Hawkins, the first Black moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A (UPCUSA). Included in the digitized collection are two pocket-size commonplace books Hawkins read from when called upon to speak. One is chiefly his typescripts of Langston Hughes poems, the other a book of songs, including the "Internationale."

Born in 1908 in the Bronx, Hawkins graduated from Bloomfield College and from Union Theological Seminary, and was installed at St. Augustine Presbyterian Church in the Bronx in 1938. Social activism was a fundamental part of his ministry. Hawkins organized on behalf of domestic workers in 1941 and ran for New York State Assembly in 1948. He was moderator of the Presbytery of New York City from 1958 to 1960, vice-moderator of the UPCUSA in 1960, and finally moderator of the 176th General Assembly in Oklahoma City in 1964.

Hawkins mentored a generation of prominent Black Presbyterian ministers including Metz Rollins, Clarence Cave, and Cornelius Berry Sr. Hawkins was a track star in college, convened a poetry group among his friends, and has a lasting legacy in New York through a foundation supporting Black artists and cultural institutions. We're honored to share an intimate glimpse into his life.

View the collection: