Southern Poverty Law Center

From Academic Kids

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is based in Montgomery, Alabama, in the South of the United States. It was started in 1971 by Morris Dees and Joe Levin as a civil rights law firm. It is known for its "tolerance education" programs, its legal victories against white supremacist groups, its monitoring of various hate groups, and its sponsorship of Maya Lin's Civil Rights Memorial. The Center publishes an analysis of perceived political extremism and bias crimes in the United States in the quarterly Intelligence Report.



The first case the Center took on forced the local YMCA to racially integrate their athletic offerings. In 1979 the Center brought its first of its many cases against the Ku Klux Klan. In 1983, the Klan responded by burning down the Center's offices. Several other attempts to bomb the center and kill Morris Dees have been thwarted.[1] (


Because of its targeting of specific organizations as being "hate groups" and its financial status, it is not surprising that the SPLC is controversial. Some criticisms have focused on its fundraising methods. For example, a 1996 USA Today article claimed that the Southern Poverty Law Center is "the nation's richest civil rights organization", with $68 million in assets at the time (in the fiscal year ending in 2003, its assets totalled $156 million [2] ( A 2003 article in the Fairfax Journal (of Fairfax, Virginia) claimed that 89% of income was spent on fundraising and administration.

In 1994 The Montgomery Advertiser published an investigative series alleging financial mismanagement, poor management practices, misleading fundraising, and institutionalized racism at the Center. Black former employees asserted that the Center was run like "a plantation" and complained of discrimination by white supervisors. The Center threatened legal action against the newspaper during the publication of the series, and lobbied against its consideration for journalism awards. Nonetheless, the investigative series was a finalist for a 1995 Pulitzer Prize.

Myles Kantor of Pureplay Press ( alleges that the group engages in fear-mongering and the smearing of legitimate, non-racist groups in pursuit of profitable financial contributions and ideological goals.[3] (

The Southern Poverty Law Center, and Morris Dees himself, have engaged in a dispute with right-wing intellectual and activist David Horowitz over material related to Horowitz's campaign against slavery reparations, which the SPLC claims constitutes "hate speech". Horowitz writes:

The effect is to multiply the number of racial hate groups, to scare well-meaning citizens into the belief that mainstream civil rights organizations like the Center for the Study of Popular Culture are really fever swamps of hate that deserve to be lumped alongside the Ku Klux Klan. The purpose of this fear-mongering is transparent. It is to fill the already wealthy coffers of your organization by exploiting unsuspecting donors into helping you promote leftwing agendas under the guise of civil rights.[4] (

The Center has asserted that all of these claims are attempts to smear its reputation, and dismisses them as being brought forward by "extremist" groups.

Hate groups

A continuing source of controversy is the identification and monitoring of organizations that the SPLC labels hate groups. The SPLC further categorizes these groups as Black Separatism (such as Nation of Islam), Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, Christian Identity, Racist Skinhead, Neo-Confederate (such as League of the South), and Other. Some organizations described by the SPLC as hate groups object strenuously to this characterization of them, particularly those in the Other category. They protest that such designations are politically motivated, and do not accurately reflect their beliefs. Organizations on the list in 2004 categorized as Other included:

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