Marian Wright Edelman was born June 6, 1939 in Bennettsville. At the age of 14, her father passed away. With his last words, he told her, “don’t let anything get in the way of your education”.
After Edelman was arrested for her activism in the Civil Rights Movement - a movement aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African-Americans - she decided to study law and attended Yale Law School. Edelman then became the first African-American woman admitted to The Mississippi Bar, the unified bar association (a professional organization of lawyers) of the state of Mississippi.
In l968, Marian moved to Washington, D.C., and was counsel for the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had begun organizing before his death. On the 24th of May 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is to “ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.” The CDF also promotes health care for American children, “particularly poor and minority children and those with disabilities.”
Edelman has already received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. Apart from that, she has really made a difference in the quality of living for disadvantaged children who would otherwise have had been overlooked and dismissed. Edelman isn’t someone who just sat meekly back when she disagreed with something; when she saw something that needed to be changed, she took action. In 1967, Edelman persuaded senators Robert Kennedy and Joseph Clark to tour the Mississippi River to witness the poverty of the rural population. As a result of this tour, the federal government began issuing free food stamps. This Food Stamp program, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provided (and still provides) people with low incomes with financial assistance in purchasing food. When the program first began, it used paper-denominated "stamps" with equal value to actual money that could be used when purchasing food.
Marian Wright Edelman is a remarkable woman and a true hero of the 20th century. She has already made a difference to the lives of thousands of children, and will surely continue to help improve the world around us.
Marian Wright Edelman
"When I fight about what is going on in the neighborhood, or when I fight about what is happening to other people's children, I'm doing that because I want to leave a community and a world that is better than the one I found.”
- Marian Wright Edelman