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Marian Wright Edelman
Marian Wright Edelman was born on this date in 1939. She is a Black administrator and children’s rights advocate.
She was born in Bennettsville, S.C., to Arthur and Maggie Leola Brown, who instilled in her the belief that community service was one of life’s highest duties. Wright attended Marlboro Training High School and Spelman College. Traveling overseas during these years changed her perspective on the world. Arrested as a senior and activist during the 20th century American Civil Rights movement, she decided to become a lawyer rather than continue with Russian studies. After graduating from Spelman College, Wright entered Yale Law School and began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People's March.
She is the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) and has advocated for disadvantaged Americans throughout her professional career. For two years, she served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University, and in 1973 began CDF. Under her leadership, the Washington-based CDF has become a strong national voice for children and families. CDF's mission is to Leave No Child Behind and to ensure every child has a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life with the support of caring families and communities. She founded the Washington Research Project, which was the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund.
Edelman has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and, most recently, the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellow and served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College, which she chaired from 1976 to 1987. She has written several books, including the #1 "New York Times bestseller, “The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours.”
She is also the author of “Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children”; a children's book, “Stand for Children”; and “Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors,” published in 1999. Marian Wright Edelman is married to Peter Edelman, a professor at Georgetown Law School. They have three sons: Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra.