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.
All who love children are served generously and intelligently by the ideas, commitments, and passion of Marian Wright Edelman. Her arms are open to the children and adults of the world and we all are stronger and more safe because of her. —Maya Angelou
"From the earliest years of the campaign for civil rights to the most recent struggles on behalf of children of all races, this memoir summons up the sense of deep and personal discipleship that each and every one of us depends upon to keep alive a flame of hope. Lanterns is a radiant and transcendent book, filled with moral lessons from the youth of a courageous woman to the hearts of those who follow in her footsteps: a gift of love from one heroic generation to the next." —Jonathan Kozol
"I am pleased to have been selected by Marian Wright Edelman, who has championed the rights for thousands of children in this century, as one of her mentors." —Mrs. Rosa L. Parks
"This memoir, lucidly and poignantly told, offers a compelling moral history of our country-an account of how brave and honorable individuals helped us make changes both necessary and important to accomplish." —Robert Coles