Marian Wright Edelman

Born:June 6, 1939 (age 85)
Career:Activist for children's rights
Education:B.A., Spelman College
J.D., Yale Law School

Marian Wright Edelman, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, began her career in the mid 1960s. As the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi.

Edelman was born June 6, 1939, in Bennetsville, South Carolina. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). For two years she served as the director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and, in 1973, began CDF.

<Edelman served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College, which she chaired from 1976–1987; and she was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation, on which she served from 1971–1977. She has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include eight books: "Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change," "The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours," "Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children," "Stand for Children," "Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors," "Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind," "I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children," and "I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children."

Edelman is a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation, the Association to Benefit Children, and City Lights School and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.


Children's Defense Fund (n.d.). “Marian Wright Edelman” Children's Defense Fund. Retrieved November 7, 2022.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (n.d.). “Marian Wright Edelman” Britannica. Retrieved November 7, 2022.