The African American lawyer and president of the Children's Defense Fund describes the positive influences of family, church members, teachers, colleagues, and other social reformers in her life - (Baker & Taylor)
I am grateful beyond words for the example of the lanterns shared in this memoir whose lives I hope will illuminate my children's, your children's, and the paths of countless others coming behind.--Marian Wright Edelman, from the Preface
Marian Wright Edelman, "the most influential children's advocate in the country" (The Washington Post), shares stories from her life at the center of this century's most dramatic civil rights struggles. She pays tribute to the extraordinary personal mentors who helped light her way: Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Fannie Lou Hamer, William Sloane Coffin, Ella Baker, Mae Bertha Carter, and many others.
She celebrates the lives of the great Black women of Bennettsville, South Carolina-Miz Tee, Miz Lucy, Miz Kate-who along with her parents formed a formidable and loving network of community support for the young Marian Wright as a Black girl growing up in the segregated South. We follow the author to Spelman College in the late 1950s, when the school was a hotbed of civil rights activism, and where, through excerpts from her honest and passionate college journal, we witness a national leader in the making and meet the people who inspired and empowered her, including Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Howard Zinn, and Charles E. Merrill, Jr.
Lanterns takes us to Mississippi in the 1960s, where Edelman was the first and only Black woman lawyer. Her account of those years is a riveting first-hand addition to the literature of civil rights: "The only person I recognized in the menacing crowd as I walked towards the front courthouse steps was [a] veteran New York Times reporter. He neither acknowledged me nor met my eyes. I knew then what it was like to be a poor Black person in Mississippi: alone." And we follow Edelman as she leads Bobby Kennedy on his fateful trip to see Mississippi poverty and hunger for himself, a powerful personal experience for the young RFK that helped awaken a nation's conscience to child hunger and poverty.
Lanterns is illustrated with thirty of the author's personal photographs and includes "A Parent's Pledge" and "Twenty-five More Lessons for Life," an inspiration to all of us-parents, grandparents, teachers, religious and civic leaders-to guide, protect, and love our children every day so that they will become, in Marian Wright Edelman's moving vision, the healing agents for national transformation. - (Houghton)
At a time when mentoring, as Edelman notes, has become professionalized, she looks back on unofficial and informal mentors, what she calls "natural daily mentors," in her life. The list includes the famous and the obscure, the wealthy and the poor, black and white, male and female, even children. She recounts her childhood in the small town of Bennettville, South Carolina, and her years at Spelman College where Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Howard Zinn, and Charles Merrill Jr. were her mentors. Edelman includes excerpts from a diary she kept while a student traveling in Europe and experiencing freedom from the social constraints of both Spelman and the South's Jim Crow laws. She recounts her initial reluctance to return home, where a "changing South, the civil rights movement, and Dr. King were poised to give a powerful outlet to my longings," and struggling to choose a career, eventually deciding on the law and attending Yale Law School. Edelman went on to join the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in the 1960s and to gain mentors in Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Her involvement in the civil rights movement evolved into an avid interest in antipoverty and children's rights, leading to her creation of the Children's Defense Fund. She met her husband, Peter Edelman, then legislative aide to Robert Kennedy, when she was seeking publicity for the appalling poverty of the rural South. Throughout this absorbing memoir, Edelman's voice resounds with spirituality, a reliance on her faith, and a belief in equality. ((Reviewed September 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews