Southern Poverty Law Center

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The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was formed as part of the U.S. civil rights movement in 1971. Its first site was Montgomery, Alabama, where a number of major protests had begun. Its co-founders were attorneys Morris Dees and Joe Levin, and its first president was Julian Bond.[1]

It has increased its scope beyond legal assistance on precedent-setting activities. Its Intelligence Project was created in 1981, to track hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Today the SPLC Intelligence Project monitors hate groups and tracks extremist activity throughout the U.S. It provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement, the media and the public through its quarterly magazine, Intelligence Report. Staff members regularly conduct training sessions for police, schools, and civil rights and community groups, and they often serve as experts at hearings and conferences.

To deal with hate at a more fundamental level, in 1991, it set up the "Teaching Tolerance, an educational program to help K-12 teachers foster respect and understanding in the classroom.


Charity Navigator gives it two of four stars, a "needs improvement" rating. For the fiscal year ending in October 2008, its revenues were $33,526,228 and expenses were $30,693,252. The most highly compensated employees were:[2]

A 2000 article in Harper's Magazine, by Ken Silverstein, said "The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America…Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center 'to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising.' Today, the SPLC’s treasury bulges with $120 million, and it spends twice as much on fund-raising-$5.76 million last year-as it does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses. The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Center one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors, estimating that the SPLC could operate for 4.6 years without making another tax-exempt nickel from its investments or raising another tax-deductible cent from well-meaning 'people like you."[3]


Recently, there have been questions about SPLC opposition to merely conservative groups, or its avoiding criticism of groups that may demonstrate hatred but have other political connections. [4] SPLC had designated, in 2000, the New Black Panther Party as a hate group. During the November 2008 elections, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges of voter intimidation against it. The Justice Department, in the Obama Administration, dropped charges without SPLC comment.

SPLC, however, has been critical of American conservatives such as Lou Dobbs and the Center for Immigration Reform.


  1. About Us, Southern Poverty Law Center
  2. Southern Poverty Law Center, advocating for Law and Justice, Charity Navigator
  3. Ken Silverstein (November 2000), The church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center profits from intolerance
  4. Carol M. Swain (10 August 2009), "Mission Creep and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Misguided Focus", Huffington Post