Marian Wright Edelman is a children’s rights activist, lawyer and educator. Born on June 6, 1939 in Bennettsville, South Carolina, her father was a Baptist preacher, who taught Marian and her siblings the value of education. He passed away when Marian was 14, and his dying advice to Marian was not to let anything stand in the way of her pursuit for education. Marian studied at Marlboro Training High School in Bennettsville. She then enrolled at Spelman College, where she received the Merrill Scholarship to study abroad. She traveled to the Soviet Union, where she became a Lisle fellow. She returned to the U.S. in 1959, where she actively became involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
Deferring her plans to enter the Foreign Service, but political events in the country made her change her direction. During her student days, Marian had been an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. She attended protests against racial segregation at City Hall and was arrested on one occasion. This made her realize that she could bring about a positive change in the socio-economic status of African Americans.
Marian Wright Edelman then decided to study law, and was accepted at Yale University. As a student at Yale, Marian was actively involved in a project to register African American voters in Mississippi. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1963, after which she joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She first worked in New York for the NAACP Legal and Defense Fund, and then moved to Mississippi. In Mississippi, she became the first African American woman to be admitted to the Bar Association and practice law. After leaving the NAACP, she was employed at the Child Development Group in Mississippi. Here, she became deeply involved in securing government funding for the Head Start Programs. Working for children’s causes became the focus of the rest of her career.
While working in Mississippi, Marian met Benjamin Edelman, who was then working as an assistant to Senator Robert F.