Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
The Southern Poverty Law Center is internationally recognized for its groundbreaking history of seeking racial justice, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy and advancing the human rights of all people, in the South and beyond.
The SPLC was founded in 1971 to ensure that the promise of the civil rights movement became a reality for all. It began as a small law firm working to help implement federal civil rights legislation and constitutional guarantees. Early cases resulted in the desegregation of public recreational facilities, the reapportionment of the Alabama legislature, an end to the involuntary sterilization of women on welfare and the integration of the Alabama State Troopers.
Innovative trial strategies to shut down white supremacist organizations and combat injustice are part of the SPLC's ongoing legacy. We have toppled some of the country’s most notorious white supremacist groups by winning multimillion-dollar jury verdicts for victims and survivors of their racist violence. But this work is far from over – the number of hate groups and extremist organizations in our country (which we track and analyze with our interactive Hate Map) remains alarmingly high.
Since 1981, investigators from the SPLC's Intelligence Project have worked hand in hand with civil rights attorneys to secure justice for hate crime victims targeted by domestic terrorism. SPLC civil suits have resulted in judgments against a dozen major white supremacist organizations (like the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and the United Klans of America) and against 46 individuals for their roles in hate crimes. Intelligence Project research also has led to criminal convictions in several hate crime cases. In addition to investigative work, the Intelligence Project publishes the Intelligence Report, which exposes the activities of the hate groups and extremist organizations and is made available free to members of Congress, the media, human rights workers, and law enforcement agencies.
In 1991, the SPLC expanded its efforts to fight hate with the launch of a new project, Learning for Justice (formerly known as Teaching Tolerance). The program’s free anti-bias education materials and award-winning, self-titled magazine are sent to hundreds of thousands of educators nationwide. Learning for Justice multimedia kits, including award-winning documentaries produced by the SPLC, are used in classrooms across the country.
Learning for Justice has earned accolades from a variety of organizations, including three Oscar nominations (winning two of them) and more than 25 honors from the Association of American Publishers, including two Golden Lamp Awards, the industry's highest honor.
The SPLC’s legal docket focuses on seeking to advance equality and social justice in six issue areas:
- Children’s Rights: We are working to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to access quality public education, including services for mental health and disabilities. We’re also working to end exclusionary policies that push children out of the classroom and into the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Immigrant Justice: We address the unique legal needs of migrant workers, a group particularly vulnerable to workplace abuse, and help the children of immigrants gain access to a quality education. Our newest initiative, the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, started in response to the increase of raids targeting immigrant communities. It seeks to ensure every immigrant held in detention facilities in the Southeast has access to free legal representation.
- LGBTQ Rights: We're working in the courts to ensure that LGBTQ people achieve full equality under the law. We’re particularly worried about the rolling back of hard-won protections for the LGBTQ community.
- Economic Justice: We are fighting back against deeply engrained policies and practices that exploit or punish the poor simply because of their economic status. Our work focuses on ending debtors’ prison in the Deep South, as well as seeking systemic reforms in bail and other issues related to court debt.
- Criminal Justice Reform: We are working to reform the criminal justice system so it operates fairly and equitably – to ensure that those involved with it are treated with dignity and humanity, and to reduce the prison population.
- Voting Rights: We’re working to empower voters and eliminate disenfranchisement and discriminatory voting practices, particularly in the Deep South. In collaboration with community partners and organizers, we are engaging and mobilizing voters, pursuing electoral policy reforms and bringing litigation to challenge unconstitutional discrimination in access to the ballot.
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