Hometown-girl-made-good Marian Wright Edelman, 62, is far from dead. But that hasn’t deterred Congress from approving two earmarks for the planned Marian Wright Edelman Library “to be built,” says the Marlboro Herald-Advocate, “in downtown Bennettsville,” S.C. (pop. 11,000). Admirers of the Children’s Defense Fund’s one-and-only president since 1973 tapped the HUD budget for $825,000 and the Department of Education’s Institute for Museum and Library Services for another $500,000.
Marlboro County Administrator Ann Hubbard says the 25,000-square-foot public library will also contain a “learning center.” The daughter of a minister, Wright Edelman grew up three blocks from the current library, but Jim Crow segregation made it off limits to African-Americans. Naming a public building for the living is a controversial practice, but apparently not in South Carolina, where dozens of things are named after Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), reportedly still alive at 99.
With the help of a grant from the W.K Kellogg Foundation, CDF opened a Bennettsville office in 1986 and has spent perhaps a million dollars from various philanthropies maintaining the office ever since. Until her retirement in 1999, the office was run by Olive Wright Covington, the older sister of the renowned CDF president. The CDF office is located in the church parsonage where the Wright sisters grew up.
A block away is the Maggie Wright Nursing Home, named for the CDF president’s mother. The two-person CDF office, now led by Robin Sally, writes curriculum for CDF’s summer programs, known as the Freedom Schools. It’s part of CDF’s Black Community Crusade for Children, managed from CDF’s D.C. headquarters by Germaine Ingram. Last summer 61 Freedom Schools programs operated nationwide, one in Bennettsville. This summer, says Sally, 70 Freedom Schools will operate. The CDF satellite office also operates a Rites of Passage youth development program serving 30 early adolescents. Contact: CDF (843) 479-5310.