Meridian Star

Local News

June 25, 2014

Freedom Summer at 50: Honoring the legacy, pursing greatness

MERIDIAN —     In the summer of 1964, hundreds of summer volunteers from across America came to Mississippi to help register black voters in the state. It was the beginning of the end of rigid segregation.  

    That was 50 years ago in a project called Freedom Summer.  

    The Meridian community will commemorate the 50th anniversary of that historical movement today with the program “Honoring the Legacy & Pursuing Greatness” at 7 p.m. at the Temple Theater. The event is free to the public; no ticket is required for admittance.

    Keynote speaker for the celebration is Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the National Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Members of the James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner families will be in attendance. Freedom Summer volunteers and teachers, Mark Levy, Gail Falk, Dave Dennis and others are also a part of the evening event.

About the speaker

    A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career in the mid-'60s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson. 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. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children's Defense Fund. For two years, she served as director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in l973 began CDF. Edelman served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College, which she chaired from 1976 to 1987 and was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation on which she served from 1971 to 1977.    Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans throughout her professional life. Under her leadership, the Children's Defense Fund has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. CDF’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.

     Edelman has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received 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; Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children; Stand for Children; Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors; Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind; 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 a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

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