MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN

b.1939

Marian Wright Edelman, dedicated civil rights activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), was bom in Ben- nettsville, South Carolina. She was the daughter of parents who advocated grassroots social programs, and founded the Wright Home for the Aged, which Marian’s mother ran.

Marian attended segregated schools, and excelled at Spelman College, where she was offered a stipend to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Geneva in Switzerland. She returned to Spelman in 1959 for her senior year, during which she participated in the sitins and protests that were integrating the South.

She graduated valedictorian in 1960 and was so engaged with the civil rights movement that she dropped her plans to study international relations, and went to Yale University Law School instead.She was active in a voter registration drive in Mississippi during 1963, interned with the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP, and headed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educa¬ tional Fund between 1964 and 1968.

In 1968, the Field Foundation awarded her a grant that allowed her to found the Wash¬ ington Research Project, which began Wright’s lifelong journey to understand the effects of poverty on children, and find the solutions to the problems faced primarily by African-Americans.

Wright’s research was so powerful that she founded the CDF to affect political pol¬ icy and secure the funds and the political support that could alleviate the pressures of poverty on America’s children.

She viewed CDF’s mission as educating Americans about how to take preventative action in the areas of health, education, child care, youth employment, child welfare and family support services. In 1987, the CDF introduced the Act for Better Child Care, bringing children’s health to the forefront of the discus¬ sion on how to strengthen America in a newly globalized economy.

Edelman has received over 35 awards for her work, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize (1988), and has pro¬ duced a published body of work on the needs and con¬ cerns of the nation’s quietest population.

Children Out of School in America was published in 1974, School Suspensions: Are They Helping Children in 1975, Portrait ofInequality: Black and White Children in America in 1980, Fami¬ lies in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change in 1987 and The Measure of Our Suc- cess in 1992.