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Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is internationally recognized for its groundbreaking leadership in seeking justice for the most vulnerable in our society and fighting hate in courtrooms and classrooms throughout the nation.

Founded in 1971, the SPLC 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, ended the involuntary sterilization of women on welfare, and integrated of the Alabama State Troopers.

Innovative trial strategies to shut down white supremacist organizations and combat injustice are part of the SPLC's ongoing work. We have toppled notorious hate groups with remarkable monetary damages. But with a record number of active hate groups operating in the U.S., this work is far from over. 

Since 1981, SPLC investigators have worked together 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 (e.g. the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and the United Klans of America) and also against 47 individuals for their roles in hate crimes. Our research also has led to criminal convictions in hate crime cases.

In addition to our leads, we publish white papers about the activities of the radical right. Our resources are made available free to members of Congress, the media, human rights workers, and law enforcement agencies. 

Ten years later, in 1991, the SPLC expanded its efforts to fight hate with the launch of a new project, Teaching Tolerance, which uses anti-bias lessons and teacher development to create safe, inclusive learning environments while encouraging students to be active participants in our nation’s diverse democracy. This program reaches every K-12 school in the country with highly effective resources – including films, teaching kits, lesson plans, activities, and professional development materials – at no cost to them. 

Teaching Tolerance has earned a variety of accolades including three Oscar nominations, two Academy Awards, and more than 77 honors from the Association of American Publishers, which comprise 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 priority areas:

  • 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 (SIFI), 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.

  • LGBT Rights: We're working in the courts to ensure that LGBT people achieve full equality under the law. We’re particularly concerned about the rolling back of hard-fought protections for the LGBT community.

  • Economic Justice: We are fighting back against deeply ingrained 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 court debt related issues. 

  • Criminal Justice: We are working to reform the criminal justice system so it operates fairly and equitably, so that those involved with it are treated with dignity and humanity, and so the prison population is reduced. 

  • 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 through the school-to-prison pipeline.

  • Voting Rights: Our civil rights attorneys are working across the South to eradicate Jim Crow-era laws that strip people with certain convictions of their right to vote. In Florida, we helped secure the Voting Restoration Amendment (Amendment 4), that reinstated the rights of 1.4 million Floridians, and we recently filed suit to prevent a new law from disenfranchising them again. In Alabama, we trained 2,500 volunteers to go door to door and educate the public about the Definition of Moral Turpitude Act. Moral turpitude is a vague term that has no precise definition, but generally refers to serious acts of criminal behavior that could be described as depraved or vile. Prior to this enactment, Alabamians who lost their rights to vote were subjected to multiple interpretations of the law, which often differed by each of the state’s 67 counties. As a result of the volunteer efforts, 2,000 formerly convicted individuals reinstated their rights to vote. 

In the last year, the SPLC formed a 501(c)(4) organization, SPLC Action Fund, giving us greater flexibility to engage in legislative battles at every level of government and to support critical ballot initiatives.

Donate Through Workplace Giving 

One of the best ways to support our work is to take advantage of recurring payroll deduction donations through your employer's workplace giving program (or the Combined Federal Campaign if you're a federal employee). With recurring payroll deductions, you can have just a little bit of money automatically deducted from your paycheck each pay period over the course of a year, adding up to make a big difference for us – and providing us with a consistent source of support we can rely on to operate and focus on our mission. And don't forget to check: If your company offers to match donations, you can double your impact! If your employer does not have a payroll deduction campaign, does not match gifts or does not offer the choice of giving to the SPLC, ask about bringing America's Charities to your workplace. America's Charities works with employers to develop employee-friendly, cost-effective workplace giving campaigns that benefit organizations like ours.

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