The Southern Poverty Law Center 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 45 years ago by attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr., the Southern Poverty Law Center 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 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 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, investigators from 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 our investigative work, the Intelligence Project publishes the quarterly Intelligence Report, which exposes the activities of the radical right and is made available free to members of Congress, the media, human rights workers, and law enforcement agencies.
Ten years later, the SPLC expanded its efforts to fight hate with the launch of a new project, Teaching Tolerance. The program's free tolerance education materials and award-winning, self-titled magazine is sent to more than 450,000 educators nationwide. Teaching Tolerance multimedia kits are used by hundreds of thousands of classrooms across the country.
Teaching Tolerance has earned accolades from a variety of organizations, including three Oscar nominations, two Academy Awards, 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 focusses on seeking to advance equality and social justice in five priority areas: