Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman
Born (1939-06-06) June 6, 1939
Bennettsville, South Carolina, U.S.
Alma mater
Occupation Children's rights activist
Organization Children's Defense Fund
Spouse(s) Peter Edelman (m. 1968)
Awards 13, including:
Candace Award
Presidential Medal of Freedom
(Full list below)

Marian Wright Edelman (born June 6, 1939) is an American activist for the rights of children. She has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. She is president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.

Early years

Marian Wright was born June 6, 1939 in Bennettsville, South Carolina. In 1953, her father died when she was 14, urging in his last words, "Don't let anything get in the way of your education."[1]

She attended Marlboro Training High School in Bennettsville, and went on to Spelman College and traveled the world on a Merrill scholarship and studied in the Soviet Union as a Lisle fellow. She also became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and after being arrested for her activism, she decided to study law and enrolled at Yale Law School where she earned a Juris Doctor in 1963.


Edelman was the first African American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar. She began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Mississippi office, working on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and representing activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. She also helped establish a Head Start program.

Edelman moved in 1968 to Washington, D.C., where she continued her work and contributed to the organizing of the Poor People's Campaign of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm, and also became interested in issues related to childhood development and children.

In 1973, she founded the Children's Defense Fund as a voice for poor children, children of color, and children with disabilities. The organization has served as an advocacy and research center for children's issues, documenting the problems and possible solutions to children in need. She also became involved in several school desegregation cases and served on the board of the Child Development Group of Mississippi, which represented one of the largest Head Start programs in the country.[2]

As founder, leader and principal spokesperson for the CDF, Mrs. Edelman worked to persuade Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve child care and protect children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected. A philosophy of service absorbed during her childhood undergirds all her efforts. As she expresses it, "If you don’t like the way the world is, you have an obligation to change it. Just do it one step at a time."

She continues to advocate youth pregnancy prevention, child-care funding, prenatal care, greater parental responsibility in teaching values and curtailing what she sees as children’s exposure to the barrage of violent images transmitted by mass media. Edelman serves on the board of the New York City based Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty.

Personal life

During a tour by Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark of Mississippi's poverty-ridden Delta slums in 1967, she met Peter Edelman, an assistant to Kennedy. They married on July 14, 1968. Edelman and her husband, now a Georgetown law professor, have three children: Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra. Joshua is an educational administrator; Jonah works in education advocacy and founded Stand for Children; Ezra is a television producer.

Honors and awards


  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1975). Winson and Dovie Hudson's Dream. Cambridge: Harvard University. OCLC 49643782. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1981). American Children and Families. Washington, D.C.: Religious Action Center. OCLC 7968448. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1987). Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-29228-6. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1992). The Measure of Our Success. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-3102-X. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1993). Kids and Guns: A National Disgrace. Washington, D.C.: Educational Fund To End Handgun Violence. OCLC 32644803. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1995). Guide My Feet. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-2308-6. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright; Adrienne Yorinks (1998). Stand for Children. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN 0-7868-0365-7. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (1999). Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-7214-1. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (2000). The State of America's Children. Boston: Beacon. OCLC 46480964. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (2002). I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Children and Teenagers. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-0597-8. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (2005). I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-028051-4. 
  • Edelman, Marian Wright (2008). The Sea Is so Wide and My Boat Is so Small. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 978-1-4013-2333-2. 


  1. Jone Johnson Lewis (2008). "Marian Wright Edelman Biography". Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  2. Hine, Darlene Clark; Thompson, Kathleen (1999). A shining thread of hope the history of Black women in America (1. paperback ed.). New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 9780767901116.
  3. "CANDACE AWARD RECIPIENTS 1982-1990, Page 1". National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Archived from the original on March 14, 2003.
  5. The Heinz Awards, Marian Wright Edelman profile
  6. "Marian Wright Edelman Library opens". U.S. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC), press release, December 24, 2001. Monday, February 22, was a dreary day by all accounts, with grey skies and bouts of sometimes heavy rain. But inside the Marian Wright Edelman Public Library, it was a different story: bright and warm, with an air of excitement that anyone could feel. Monday was opening day for the new library.
  7. "Spratt Secures $1.325 Million for Marian Wright Edelman Library" (PDF). = Marlboro Herald Advocate, Lynn McQueen, February 25, 201.
  8. "Marian Wright Edelman Library opens". Marlboro Herald Advocate, Lynn McQueen, February 25, 2010.
  9. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Marian Wright Edelman
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/17/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.