Southern Poverty Law Center

American nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation

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Southern Poverty Law Center
SPLC Logo.svg
FoundedAugust 1971; 49 years ago (August 1971)
  • Public-interest law firm
  • Civil rights advocacy organization
63-0598743 (EIN)
Coordinates32°22′36″N 86°18′12″W / 32.37667°N 86.30333°W / 32.37667; -86.30333Coordinates: 32°22′36″N 86°18′12″W / 32.37667°N 86.30333°W / 32.37667; -86.30333
Area served
United States
  • Legal representation
  • Educational materials
Key people
Margaret Huang President and CEO
Bryan Fair Board Chairman
$136.3 million (2018 FY)[1]
Endowment$471.0 million (2018 FY)[1]
254 in 2011[2]

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, it is known for its legal cases against white supremacist groups, its classification of hate groups and other extremist organizations, and for promoting tolerance education programs.[3][4]:1500 The SPLC was founded by Morris Dees, Joseph J. Levin Jr., and Julian Bond in 1971 as a civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama.[5] Bond served as president of the board between 1971 and 1979.[6]

In 1980, the SPLC began a litigation strategy of filing civil suits for monetary damages on behalf of the victims of violence from the Ku Klux Klan.[7] The SPLC also became involved in other civil rights causes, including cases to challenge what it sees as institutional racial segregation and discrimination, inhumane and unconstitutional conditions in prisons and detention centers, discrimination based on sexual orientation, mistreatment of illegal immigrants, and the unconstitutional mixing of church and state. The SPLC has provided information about hate groups to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement agencies.[8][9]

Since the 2000s, the SPLC's classification and listings of hate groups (organizations it has assessed either "attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics")[10] and extremists[11] have often been described as authoritative and are widely accepted and cited in academic and media coverage of such groups and related issues.[12][13][14] The SPLC's listings have also been the subject of criticism from those who argue that some of the SPLC's listings are overbroad, politically motivated, or unwarranted.[15][16][17][18] There have also been accusations of misuse or unnecessarily extravagant use of funds by the organization, leading some employees to call the headquarters "Poverty Palace".[19]

In 2019, founder Morris Dees was fired, which was followed by the resignation of president Richard Cohen. An outside consultant, Tina Tchen, was brought in to review workplace practices, particularly relating to accusations of racial and sexual harassment.[20] Margaret Huang, who was formerly the Chief Executive at Amnesty International USA, was named as president and CEO of the SPLC in early February 2020.[21]

  1. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference financial statements was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ "2012 Form 990 U.S. Federal Tax Return" (PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  3. ^ "With Justice For All". The Times-Picayune. November 5, 2006. Archived from the original on April 17, 2008.
  4. ^ Cite error: The named reference Finkelman_Encyclopedia_2006 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  5. ^ Chebium, Raju (September 8, 2000). "Attorney Morris Dees pioneer in using 'damage litigation' to fight hate groups". CNN. Archived from the original on June 18, 2006. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  6. ^ Dees & Fiffer (1991), pp. 132–33.
  7. ^ Cite error: The named reference Chalmers_Backfire_2003 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  8. ^ Michael (2012), p. 32.
  9. ^ "What We Investigate: Hate Crimes: The FBI's Role: Public Outreach". Retrieved May 20, 2017. The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems....[failed verification]
  10. ^ "Hate Map". SPLC. Archived from the original on March 17, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2018.
  11. ^ "What We Do". SPLC.
  12. ^ Does the Southern Poverty Law Center target conservatives?. The Christian Science Monitor, February 18, 2016
  13. ^ Chen, Hsinchun (2006). Intelligence and Security Informatics for International Security: Information Sharing and Data Mining. New York: Springer. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-387-24379-5. ... the web sites of the "Southern Poverty Law Center" [...] and the Anti-Defamation League [...] are authoritative sources for identifying domestic extremists and hate groups.
  14. ^ Swain, Carol (2002). The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-521-80886-6.
  15. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (February 17, 2016). "The Year of 'Enormous Rage': Number of Hate Groups Rose by 14 Percent in 2015". The Washington Post.
  16. ^ Cite error: The named reference politico was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  17. ^ Jonsson, Patrik (February 23, 2011). "Annual report cites rise in hate groups, but some ask: What is hate?". The Christian Science Monitor
  18. ^ Graham, David A. (June 18, 2018). "The Unlabelling of an 'Anti-Muslim Extremist'". The Atlantic. Retrieved July 5, 2018. While the fabled nonprofit has long had its critics, many of them hatemongers like Gaffney, the new chorus included sympathetic observers and fellow researchers on hate groups, who worried that SPLC was mixing its research and activist strains.
  19. ^ Moser, Bob (March 21, 2019). "The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 22, 2020. In 1995, the Montgomery Advertiser had been a Pulitzer finalist for a series that documented, among other things, staffers’ allegations of racial discrimination within the organization.
  20. ^ Burch, Audra D. S.; Blinder, Alan; Eligon, John (March 25, 2019). "Roiled by Staff Uproar, Civil Rights Group Looks at Intolerance Within". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  21. ^ Cite error: The named reference montgomeryadvertiser_Lyman_2200203 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

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