In 2022, we saw a surge of attacks on our bodies, our rights and our futures. Here in the South and across the nation, white supremacists became more emboldened. Extremists further manipulated the levers of power to challenge free and fair elections — and to silence Black and Brown voters. And our statehouses incubated shameful copycat laws that seek to control our bodies and censor Black history, inclusive education and discussions about LGBTQ+ people or topics in schools.
We learned the hard way that progress can be reversed — that rights can be rescinded. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the court signaled that if the right to abortion can fall, so too can other rights we’ve long held as unassailable.
I know I’m not alone in fearing all that is on the line — and mourning all that we’ve lost. Yet, what struck me so powerfully about this year was our response as an organization and a movement: our resistance, our fierce activism, our refusal to give up.
As you read this annual report, you’ll see that even in the most hostile climates, the Southern Poverty Law Center successfully defended people’s rights and made progress toward a just, equitable and inclusive nation. Each of our teams advanced our core framework — fighting extremism and white supremacy, strengthening democracy, eradicating poverty, and combating incarceration and criminalization.
We are in a moment of great challenge. But the South is also poised for transformational change, and I know that if we continue harnessing our collective power, we will move ever closer toward a multiracial, inclusive democracy in the South and beyond.
Fighting extremism and white supremacy
Amid the surge in extremism, the SPLC worked to push white supremacy out of the mainstream, remedy harms in communities and prevent radicalization from taking root in the first place.
The 2022 Year in Hate and Extremism report documented 1,225 active hate groups across the United States. It also showed how these groups have shifted tactics to pursue their agenda in public view. We sounded the alarm on Capitol Hill, testifying before congressional committees and participating in the United We Stand Summit hosted by the Biden administration about the proliferation of hate. Our Intelligence Project also worked with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, submitting analysis about how people on the radical right are building financial support for their activities.
The SPLC and SPLC Action Fund have also been working in the courts and in communities to push back against legislation straight from the scripts of hate groups. We filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” law and Alabama’s law denying trans children the ability to seek safe, gender-affirming medical care.
But we also know that changing policy alone won’t stop hate. Prevention — and education — is key. We were thrilled to reopen the Civil Rights Memorial Center to once again help visitors understand the truth about the history of civil rights advocacy in the U.S. And with teachers on the front lines of this anti-inclusion climate, our Learning for Justice magazine provided guidance and reassurance for educators. The Learning for Justice program connected students, teachers and communities with timely resources to foster shared learning, reflection and collective action.
The same forces fueling radicalization and hateful legislation are also behind attacks on our democracy — and while the 2022 midterm elections were deemed one of the most secure on record, they still served as a test for free and fair elections.
The SPLC worked in collaboration with community partners and organizers to engage and mobilize voters and protect and expand the right to vote. We launched “Our Future, Our Vote,” a campaign to reach communities of color, historically Black colleges and universities, and low-propensity voters. We also brought resources and support to areas in the South that have too often been left out of mobilization efforts.
As part of our community engagement work, we also kicked off the Advocacy Institute, a program in Mississippi that trains organizers from various cultures and backgrounds across the state who are focused on community education and transformative change.
On the litigation front, we filed lawsuits on issues ranging from voters not having enough time to file absentee ballots to the fairness of district maps. And the SPLC Action Fund fought in statehouses to fortify democracy, opposing bills that restricted the right to protest, an essential tool of democracy.
We continued to fight to ensure people received the COVID-19 relief they deserved. The SPLC reached a settlement agreement with the Georgia Department of Labor, resolving a lawsuit over unemployment benefits delayed during the pandemic. The agreement will benefit all Georgians seeking to access unemployment compensation.
We also provided support to grassroots groups that are defending the rights of unhoused people and pushing back on attempts to criminalize and stigmatize them. The SPLC Action Fund helped defeat a bill in Georgia that would have imposed a statewide ban on camping in public.
In Florida, we helped preserve Black heritage in Eatonville, one of the first all-Black incorporated communities with an autonomous Black city government in the United States. We’re hopeful that collaborations like these with local communities will prove effective for ensuring we’re upholding the dignity of place and people while creating economic opportunities from which we all benefit.
Combating incarceration and criminalization
As some officials in the South — and across the nation — turn their backs on bipartisan criminal legal reform and resort to debunked, punitive policies and rhetoric, the SPLC is holding the line on transformative progress made over the last decade or more.
The SPLC Action Fund was successful in securing passage of legislation in Louisiana that significantly reduced the use of solitary confinement. And we fought hard against bills in state legislatures across the Deep South that would only worsen the nation’s mass incarceration crisis.
We focused on protecting the rights and dignity of children. After learning that Louisiana was incarcerating youth at a notorious adult prison on the site of a former slave plantation, we sent a letter to Louisiana officials demanding a detailed plan for how children would receive general and special education.
Our advocacy extended to schools as well, where we opposed punitive disciplinary policies in Southern public schools to ensure students aren’t needlessly pushed out of class and into the legal system.
Our Immigrant Justice Project continued to advocate for the reversal of Trump-era policies and federal rules denying due process rights to asylum seekers. We also filed a complaint against a for-profit immigrant prison in Georgia after learning of reports of sexual assault and retaliation. Elsewhere, the federal government announced it would no longer use an immigrant detention center featured in an SPLC report examining the failures of Deep South immigrant detention centers.
Our path forward
To ensure our values are reflected across our work, we know they must also be practiced within our workplace.
Guided by that ethos, our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) team conducted the organization’s first-ever comprehensive workplace culture and climate survey. It gave SPLC employees the opportunity to provide feedback on their experience and directly shape the culture of the organization moving forward.
The team and the JEDI Working Group, composed of elected representatives from staff, with the full support of leadership, are guiding us through the important process of co-creating an anti-racist, inclusive SPLC.
We’re also continuing to grow and deepen our community relationships. The SPLC is embracing, more fully than ever, the South as our home. Our offices, our teams and our partners are here on the ground in the Deep South — and we are committed to increasing our investment in this region we love so deeply as together we make it a region where everyone can thrive.
It is because of our extraordinary staff, supporters and community partners that we continue to grow into a stronger, more impactful organization.
This work will not be easy. It never has been. But as we’ve learned from centuries of freedom fighters who risked everything for their human rights, change is possible. A better future for the South is on the horizon. And I know we can achieve it, together.
SPLC President and CEO
Read the report by clicking on the image below
Report cover illustration by Dakarai Akil