Meet Marian Wright Edelman

In our final post celebrating Women’s History Month GaffneyLewis LLC is proud to introduce you to Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for children’s rights.

Hailing from Bennettsville, South Carolina, Edelman was born on June 6, 1939, to Arthur Jerome Wright, a Baptist minister, and Maggie Leola Bowen.

Edelman has been a life-long advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. Her work in this area has influenced leaders including Martin Luther King Jr.

After graduating from high school in 1956 she attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Edelman was awarded a Merrill Scholarship which afforded her the opportunity to travel and study abroad. In 1959 she returned to Spelman for her senior year and became involved in the civil rights movement. In 1960, Edelman and 77 other students were arrested during a sit-in at segregated Atlanta restaurants.She graduated from Spelman as valedictorian of her class. She went on to study law and enrolled at Yale Law School earning her Juris Doctor in 1963. She would later become the first black woman elected to the Yale Board of Trustees (1971).

In 1964 Edelman became the first African American woman to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar and she started her legal career with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund representing civil rights activists.

Edelman first met her husband, Peter, an assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, when Kennedy was touring the Mississippi Delta. The two married in 1968 and relocated to Washington, D.C.

In 1968 Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm. She also worked on the Poor People’s Campaign for Martin Luther King Jr. and became more involved in issues relating to childhood development and the protection of children.

As her activism and support for underprivileged children advanced, Edelman founded the Children’s Defense Fund to be a voice for children of color, poor children, and those with disabilities. Edelman was instrumental in getting the United State Congress to overhaul the foster care system, and to protect children who are disabled, homeless, or abused.

Edelman is also the author of several books focusing on the importance of children’s rights and protecting them. Her passion for children and the lifelong journey to protect them is reflected in her words, “as adults, we are responsible for meeting the needs of children. It is our moral obligation. We brought about their births and their lives, and they cannot fend for themselves.”

In 2020, Edelman became president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, but her passion for the work and commitment to children continues.

Thank you, Marian Wright Edelman for the being the light for the children who need it. You have touched so many lives and your work will continue for years to come.



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