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Southern Poverty Law Center names president and CEO

Margaret Huang, the new president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund has named Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Montgomery, Alabama-based organization, replacing interim president Karen Baynes-Dunning who took over after Richard Cohen and Morris Dees both resigned in rapid succession under a cloud.

Huang is currently the executive director of Amnesty International USA. She will assume her new position at the Southern Poverty Law Center April 20.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Southern Poverty Law Center at this moment and with this incredible staff and board as they rethink how to tackle their work fighting for justice against hate,” Huang said. “Change in the South is coming, and SPLC is eager to work collaboratively with other social justice advocates to ensure that the change improves the lives of all communities.”

Bryan Fair, SPLC Board Chairperson, announced Huang’s appointment in an email to the organization’s 350 employees in offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and the District of Columbia.

SPLC worked with Koya Leadership Partners to develop the candidate profile that led to hiring of Huang, a Tennessee native.

Under Huang’s leadership of Amnesty International USA, the organization has grown both in membership and financial stability. Her direction has seen campaigns to protect the rights of refugees and migrants at the US border, gun violence victims, survivors of torture and police brutality, among many others, said Janet Lord, chairman of Amnesty International USA.

Huang has devoted her 25-year-career to championing rights for others, working for justice, fighting for human dignity and advocating against discrimination and oppression in the U.S. and around the world, SPLC said in news release.

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 by Morris Dees and Joe Levin, a Montgomery, Alabama lawyer. Civil rights leader Julian Bond was SPLC’s first president.

In the decades since its founding, the SPLC shut down some of the nation’s most violent white supremacist groups by winning crushing, multimillion-dollar jury verdicts on behalf of their victims. It dismantled vestiges of Jim Crow, reformed juvenile justice practices, shattered barriers to equality for women, children, the LGBT community and the disabled, protected low-wage immigrant workers from exploitation, and more, according to its website.

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