oil on canvas
40" x 30"
In the late 1960's, Morris Dees was among the first attorneys in a highly segregated Alabama to help make the provisions of the Civil Rights Act a reality, taking on pro bono lawsuits on behalf of minorities and the poor. Though integration and equality had become law, few had the willingness or resources to translate the words of that legislation into action. In 1971, Dees, with partner Joe Levin, established the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to justice. For over 30 years, the Center has litigated numerous landmark cases, fighting for fair hiring practices, safe working conditions, equal housing, voting rights, livable prison conditions, and health care and social services for the poor. The Center's prosecution of white supremacist groups has focused national attention on the activities of these organizations and crippled them financially by claiming monetary damages for victims. Expanding beyond civil cases, the Center has challenged unjust death penalty legislation and defended inmates on death row. Drawing upon this experience, it has created trial manuals for less experienced attorneys that outline defense strategies and help assure that anyone can receive a fair trial, regardless of means. Though numerous threats have been made against Dees and the Center since its inception--including the burning of its office in 1983--the fight for justice persists. Recent programs have shifted to proactive education, such as the "Teaching Tolerance" project, which has provides educators with free classroom materials on diversity and is in use in over 50,000 schools.
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