“Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’” — Angela Davis
With a strategic regional hub in Jackson, Mississippi, Southern Justice Rising represents the Center for Constitutional Rights’ deepened, renewed institutional commitment to liberatory movements in the South. Since radical lawyers founded the Center for Constitutional Rights in 1966 to support the civil rights movement in Mississippi and across the South, we have worked closely with generations of Southern freedom fighters. Southern Justice Rising continues that historical work by partnering with Southern grassroots movements, human rights defenders, and community organizations fighting to transform material conditions, dismantle systems of oppression, and advance visions of collective liberation.
From 1966 to Today
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, our team in Greenville, Mississippi – under the leadership of Vic McTeer, Jaribu Hill, and Judge Margaret Carey-McCray, among others – continued to build on our founders’ legacy by supporting Southern communities in the fight to defend Black people fighting for their constitutional rights, combat racist police and hate groups, and stand up for low-income workers of color (Tinnen v. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). After successfully representing Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to secure a fair election with more registered voters, the Center for Constitutional Rights continued to file lawsuits to help new Black electors run for and maintain office, challenge illegal redistricting plans, and increase Black political participation through litigation. Using legal strategies that evolved from Dombrowski v. Pfister, the Center for Constitutional Rights combated arrests and harassment of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee members in Alabama (Carmichael v. Selma, Wright v. Montgomery), Georgia (Carmichael v. Allen), and Tennessee (Brooks v. Briley) to protect students during protests; fought corrupt local governments that sought to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights; and protected attorneys who sought to defend activists and everyday people.
Today, Southern Justice Rising is the fight against environmental racism in Cancer Alley and a deep partnership with descendants protecting the graves of their ancestors who were enslaved and buried on the sites of former plantations in Louisiana; it is part of a movement to immediately release medically vulnerable individuals from prisons in Alabama; it is the challenge of archaic statutes that harm sex workers; it is the dismantling of racist Jim Crow practices in Louisiana’s criminal legal system; and it is the demand for improved health care and safety policies for trans people incarcerated in Georgia prisons.
Under the leadership of Associate Director Emily Early, Southern Justice Rising aims to strengthen the defense of our Southern partners, support the advancement of movement goals, and amplify stories of resistance and the righteous pursuit of Justice by:
- Partnering with social justice movements in the South and amplifying their impact through movement lawyering, visionary advocacy, and strategic communications;
- Building long-term local capacity through training and resources for Southern lawyers and advocates fighting against oppressive systems and by establishing a pipeline for the next generation of movement lawyers in the South through our legal internships and fellowships; and
- Supporting connectivity, intersectional collaboration, co-creation, and bold advocacy among Southern movements fighting for liberation.
Southern Justice Continues to Rise!
The U.S. South is home to some of the fiercest organizers for social change and some of the most inspiring justice movements of our time. Though it is also where some of the most pernicious forms of racial violence and oppression persist and where laws and policies that operationalize white supremacy are often incubated, Black, Indigenous, queer, poor, and working class communities have long been fighting for liberation, justice, and accountability. Together with movement partners who have been historically under-resourced and overburdened, Southern Justice Rising aims to build our collective capacity to not only respond to the daily threats our people are facing, but to escalate demands for a future of flourishing in the South and across the country.
We are proud to join our Southern co-conspirators who are on the frontlines of urgent and consequential battles for human rights and look forward to continuing to struggle together and build our power for social transformation.