LANTERNS by Marian Wright Edelman


A Memoir of Mentors
Email this review


A book that tells the story of a single life and a larger movement through tributes to the people whose faith, courage, imagination, and idealism made progress possible. Beginning with her girlhood in segregated South Carolina, Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, chronicles how “natural daily mentors” taught her not “how to make a living . . . but how to make a life.” Starting with her first mentors, her father, a Baptist pastor, and mother, who raised nearly a dozen foster children after his death, she recalls a tight-knit community and a circle of women who treated her as if she were their own, offering “buffers of love and encouragement!’ against a hostile world. When Edelman moved on to Spelman, the black women’s college, she encountered new mentors, such as Dr. Benjamin Mays, the president of neighboring Morehouse College, and met for the first time several white men who went out of their way to help. Howard Zinn, then a Spelman history professor, participated in student sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, and Charles Merrill Jr., scion of the Merrill Lynch fortune, not only provided financial backing, but also became Edelman’s close adviser. Upon her graduation from Yale Law School in the early “60s, the author’s work as a civil-rights attorney in Mississippi brought her into contact with such notable figures as Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, whose legislative assistant, Peter Edelman, she later married. But her recollections of lesser-known, yet vitally important figures such as Mae Bertha Carter, whose children were the first to integrate the public schools in a small Mississippi town, and Robert Moses, who masterminded Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, are at the heart of this book. Edelman ends with a series of challenges intended to inspire the next generation of mentors. By reminding us of those who had the courage to remake the not-too-distant past, Lanterns seeks to shed some light on the future. (30 b&w photos; not seen) (First printing of 150,000, author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8070-7214-1
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


NonfictionALL THE WOMEN IN MY FAMILY SING by Deborah Santana
by Deborah Santana
NonfictionYOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT by Robert J. Brown
by Robert J. Brown