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Marching back to Mississippi

7/4/2014, 6 a.m.
Those of us in Mississippi last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer know very well none of ...
Freedom Summer volunteers and locals canvassing. (Photo Courtesy of Ted Polumbaum provided courtesy of Newseum)

I traveled to Mississippi this week along with Bob Moses, Dave Dennis, and hundreds of others including young leaders from around the country to celebrate the anniversary of Freedom Summer.

As much progress as has been made in Mississippi over the last half century, Mississippi ranks 50th among all states in the percentage of children who are poor (34.7 percent); 49th in the percentage of households that lacked access to adequate food; and 49th in the percentage of high school students graduating on time. It is tragic that 79 percent of Mississippi’s fourth grade public school students were unable to read at grade level and 74 percent were unable to compute at grade level; 89 percent of black fourth graders could not read and 89 percent could not compute at grade level.

We often say with pride that Mississippi has the largest number of black elected officials in the nation— yet the political leaders of that state still feel they can deny more than 137,000 people health care and refuse the Medicaid expansion. I hope black elected officials will demand that health care be made available for those who need it and demand quality education for the children who cannot read or write or compute and are being sentenced to social and economic death and the prison system without education and jobs and hope for the future.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose 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. For more information, visit: www.childrensdefense.org.