February 27, 2014
LAWT News Service
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame for her outstanding contributions to the state’s heritage and progress on Monday, February 24, at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in South Carolina.
“I am grateful and humbled to be receiving this great honor from my home state especially with one of my great heroines, the late Septima Clark who fought courageously for equal educational opportunity, teacher pay equity and citizenship rights – especially the votes,” said Edelman.
“I have always felt blessed to be born who I was, where I was, when I was, and with the parents I had. Growing up in Bennettsville, I was richly blessed with parents and a Black community who nurtured me and other children so that we could realize our God-given potential despite many negative messages of the outside segregated world. We were taught that the world had a lot of problems but that we could change them and that those of us who were given much had a responsibility to give back and that service is the rent we pay for living.
“What keeps me going everyday is my belief that we can and will win the fight to make America live up to its ideals in the Declaration of Independence and realize the dream of a level playing field for all. We must confront the structural inequalities of opportunity and outcome that contribute to more than 16 million children living in poverty, almost half of them in extreme poverty. They pose a greater threat to the economic, military and national security of our nation than any outside enemy.
“It is a disgrace that children are the poorest group of Americans and that Black children are the poorest of the poor. Parents, grandparents, youth leaders, women of all races and income levels in our communities must raise an irresistible and persistent voice for new investment priorities of time and resources to rescue voiceless, voteless children from poor and unequal education, ill health, and violence.”
She was honored along with civil rights activist Septima Clark who helped lay the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement and equal educational opportunity in South Carolina and the nation.
“We are pleased to be inducting two strong African American women and civil rights activists —Marian Wright Edelman and Septima Clark — into the official South Carolina Hall of Fame. Marian has been ambassador for disadvantaged people from the Civil Rights Movement until today. She has worked relentlessly to defend children for over forty years and her achievements have helped millions,” said Dr. Leo Twiggs, Chairman of the Trustees of the Official South Carolina Hall of Fame.
The daughter of the late Reverend Arthur Jerome and Maggie Leola Bowen Wright, Wright-Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. After completing her education at Spelman College and Yale Law School, she became the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. 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.
Under her leadership for the last forty years, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families. The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.
She is married to Peter B. Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and they are the parents of three sons and have four grandchildren.