Edelman, Marian Wright

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Marian Wright Edelman, founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund, was born on June 6, 1939, in Bennettsville, South Carolina. Edelman was the youngest of five children and credits her father with instilling in her an obligation to right wrongs. When African Americans in Bennettsville were not allowed to enter city parks, Arthur Wright, her father, built a park for African American children behind his church.

Edelman is a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School. While working as director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi, she became the first African American female admitted to the Mississippi State Bar. She also became nationally recognized as an advocate for Head Start at this time. In 1968, Edelman moved to Washington, D.C., and subsequently became counsel to the Poor People's Campaign that was organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She founded the Washington Research Project (WRP), where she focused on lobbying Congress for child and family nutrition programs and expanding the Head Start program. In 1973, the Washington Research Project became the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), the United States' leading advocacy group for children. As president of the CDF, Edelman has worked to decrease teenage pregnancy, increase Medicaid coverage for poor children, and secure government funding for programs such as Head Start.

Edelman has served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and is the first African American female to have been on the board of directors of Yale University. Edelman has written many articles and books, including the autobiographical New York Times best-seller,The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours. Edelman's awards include the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, the Ella J. Baker Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.

From The HistoryMakers™ biography: https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/A2001.030

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Andrews, Wyatt. Valediction addresses at the University of Virginia [manuscript], 1948, 1980-1998. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Edelman, Marian Wright. [The state of our nation's children] [sound recording] / by Marian Wright Edelman. Sarah Lawrence College, Esther Raushenbush Library
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. National Association for the Education of Young Children : speech (document) Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
referencedIn Harvard Medical School. Media Services. Special events photographs, 1992-1998. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. [Divinity School and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary commencement addresses] : speech (document) Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
referencedIn Sage Colleges Archives. Honorary degree recipient for 1978, Marian Wright Edelman. The Sage Colleges Libraries
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carriers] : speech (document) Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
referencedIn Weston, M. Moran, 1910-. Papers, 1824-1994. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Wickenden, Elizabeth, 1909-2001. Elizabeth Wickenden papers, 1885-2001. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. Papers, 1892-1990 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Edelman, Marian Wright. Spring commencement address, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill / Marian Wright Edelman. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Andrews, Wyatt. Valediction addresses at the University of Virginia [manuscript],, 1948, 1980-1998. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Lincoln University (Pa.). Honorary degree recipients collection, 1868-1989 (bulk 1940-1989). Lincoln University, Langston Hughes Memorial Library, Langston Hughes Memorial Library
referencedIn Rogers, Fred. PTA speech : speech (document) Saint Vincent College, Saint Vincent Library
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Herstory
referencedIn 100 Women Who Shaped World History.
creatorOf The HistoryMakers Video Oral History with Marian Wright Edelman The HistoryMakers
Relation Name
associatedWith Children's Defense Fund (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Harvard Medical School. Media Services. corporateBody
associatedWith Lincoln University (Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. person
associatedWith Rogers, Fred. person
associatedWith Sarah Lawrence College. corporateBody
associatedWith Weston, M. Moran, 1910- person
associatedWith Wickenden, Elizabeth, 1909-2001. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Bennettsville (S.C.)
Washington (D.C.)
Baccalaureate addresses
Child welfare
Family policy
Foundation Chief Executive


Birth 1939-06-06

Birth 19390606




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