It was a year in which we recommitted ourselves to combating injustice, bigotry and racism by employing 21st century tools and strategies to tackle these long-standing challenges. And it was a year marked by significant victories and major achievements.
In 2019, our legal team won a $14 million judgment against a neo-Nazi who used his website to launch an antisemitic terror campaign against a Jewish woman and her family. At the same time, a special investigation by our Intelligence Project uncovered more than 900 emails from 2015 and 2016 revealing White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is steeped in pseudo-intellectual racism, and that his political motivation comes not from national security concerns but deep-seated white nationalist ideas.
This occurred as our Intelligence Project documented 940 hate groups in the United States, including a white nationalist movement that was emboldened by Donald Trump’s election and had grown by 55% since he took office. The findings were released in our 2019 Year in Hate and Extremism report, which also documented a sharp increase — 43% — of anti-LGBTQ hate groups as the Trump administration embraced leaders of these groups and their agendas, ultimately enacting numerous policies targeting the rights of LGBTQ people, with particularly painful consequences for the transgender community.
We also launched our Voting Rights Practice Group to dismantle state-sponsored voter suppression across the Deep South, joining forces with allied organizations to sue the state of Florida over a law that created a modern-day poll tax. We challenged Mississippi’s Jim Crow-era law that blocks many returning citizens with certain felonies from ever voting again.
The SPLC continued its work on behalf of immigrant rights — challenging the Trump administration’s extreme anti-immigrant agenda and providing pro bono legal support to hundreds of people detained in facilities across the South. We filed multiple lawsuits to protect the rights of asylum seekers and sued the Trump administration for weaponizing immigration courts to overwhelmingly reject asylum requests.
We took legal action to end mass incarceration and eliminate the inequities that perpetuate over-policing, prosecution, imprisonment and the oppression of the communities we serve. We also sued the Trump administration for dismissing the health needs of people in immigrant detention facilities, and won major reforms to improve the treatment of those in need of mental health services in Alabama prisons.
Our Teaching Tolerance initiative continued its groundbreaking work by providing resources to nearly a half million educators across the country to promote educational equity and social justice in their classrooms. The program also released the results of a new survey finding that incidents of hate in schools that make news are only a small fraction of what educators actually encounter.
In 2019, we also marked the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial, created by Maya Lin, which honors 40 martyrs who gave their lives to the modern civil rights movement. Today, the Memorial — located across from the SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama — provides education and an opportunity for reflection on the struggle for equality to tens of thousands of visitors each year.
As the year came to an end, COVID-19 began to spread around the world. It was the beginning of a pandemic that would disproportionately affect the communities we serve — particularly Black people, low-income people and immigrants. This prompted the SPLC to both demand protection for people in jails and immigrant detention centers where social distancing is not possible, and to file lawsuits across the South to ensure safe voting opportunities.
Amid the devastating effects of the pandemic, our nation was wrenched by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Yassin Mohamed, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks. Their names joined the long list of Black people killed by police and vigilantes — a reality reflecting white supremacy’s grip on our country, partic-ularly in policing. Their senseless deaths sparked massive nationwide protests against racial injustice.
As a result, we’ve deepened our commitment to fighting hate and bigotry and achieving hope, equity and true justice for all. Our passion is unwaver-ing. That was the case in 1971, when the SPLC had just three employees working out of a storefront in Montgomery. And it’s the case today, as more than 350 of us continue the organization’s work in offices across five Southern states and Washington, D.C.
We’re also taking steps to ensure the SPLC evolves to meet the challenges of a changing world. In late 2019, we began a strategic planning process, mapping out the SPLC’s mission and our path forward in the coming years and decades. It’s a process that will be completed by our 50th anniversary in 2021.
I’m proud of all the SPLC team accomplished in 2019 and excited for our future. And I’m deeply grateful for your support, because without it, none of this would be possible.
From all of us at the SPLC, thank you!
SPLC President and CEO