Human Rights Heroes

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman is an American activist for the rights of children. She has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. She is president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Edelman was the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She began practicing law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.’s Mississippi office, working on racial justice issues connected with the civil rights movement and representing activists during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. In 1968 she moved to Washington, D.C. where she contributed to the formation of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund and advocacy and research center for poor children, children of color, and children with disabilities. She has worked to persuade Congress to overhaul foster care, support adoption, improve child care and protect children who are disabled, homeless, abused or neglected.

She has published 12 books and in 2000 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.