Today #DisabilityRightsInBlack is wholeheartedly honored to lift up the life and legacy of Marian Wright Edelman! As the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she represented Civil Rights activists during freedom summer in 1964 and served as counsel to Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. Founder of the famed Children’s Defense Fund, Mrs. Edelman has dedicated over 50 years of her life to protecting children with a particular focus on those in poverty, with disabilities and from minority populations.
Read below for a personalized message penned by Mrs. Edelman as she reflects on her advocacy and reminds us all of our collective responsibility to defend children with disabilities. Mrs. Edelman, we offer our deepest gratitude for your innumerable contributions to civil, children’s and disability rights.
God did not make two classes of children. Every child is sacred and has the right to achieve their God-given potential. I have spent the last 50 years and will spend the rest of my life defending this right for our nation’s children, particularly those with disabilities. Our very first report at the Children’s Defense Fund found nearly 2 million children were out of school in America—many because they had disabilities and schools refused to serve them. As we wrote in our report, children with mental, physical and emotional disabilities “were out of school not by choice but because they had been excluded. It [was] as if many school officials had decided that certain groups of children were beyond their responsibility and were expendable.” No child is expendable. That is why the first piece of national legislation CDF championed was the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (now IDEA). Imagine what we would have lost if we had not believed and invested in babies like Stephen Hawking, Lois Curtis or Claudia Gordon? Children—all children—are precious gifts. Let’s love, respect and act now to protect them all.
– Marian Wright Edelman
Learn more about…
Marian ’s role at Children’s Defense Fund