About Marian Wright Edelman


Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund, has advocated for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, the CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families, ensuring successful passage to adulthood with help from both families and communities.

The first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, Edelman was active in a variety of causes related to the civil rights movement: she represented civil rights activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 and helped organize the Poor People’s Campaign of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1968, she created the Washington Research Project for the Southern Center for Policy Research, which later served as the basis for the CDF.

Professional positions
  • 1973–present: Founder and president emerita (2010–present), Children’s Defense Fund
  • 1971–1973: Director, Center for Law and Education at Harvard University
  • 1968–1973: Founder and Field Foundation Fellow, Washington Research Project of the Southern Center for Public Policy
  • 1964–1968: Director, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Jackson, MS, chapter)
Notable publications
  • Edelman, Marian Wright. 2008. The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation. New York, NY: Hyperion Books.
  • Edelman, Marian Wright. 1999. Lanterns: A Memoir of Memoirs. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  • Edelman, Marian Wright. 1992. The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  • Edelman, Marian Wright. 1987. Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • LLB, Yale Law School
  • BA, Spelman College

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