California Educator

May / June 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 51 of 59

Happy Anniversary! NEA is making the anniversary a central theme in this year's Rep- resentative Assembly July 2-7 in Washington, D.C. You can join in the celebration by watching the video "Honoring Our Legacy of Inclusion: The NEA- ATA Merger " at The video uses historic photos and footage, as well as interviews with key figures, to chronicle the organizations' important work in serving students and supporting public education. Golden Celebration NEA and ATA's merger strengthened commitment to public education and students T H I S Y E A R M A R K S the 50th anniversary of the historic merger of the National Education Association and the American Teachers Association in 1966. e milestone is cause to celebrate NEA and ATA's unique and distinct legacies, and the strength and richness they brought to bear on the evolution of public education and the profession of teaching. NEA, formed in 1857, and ATA, formed in 1904 as an association of the nation's African American teachers, began working together on issues of educational equity in 1926. Four decades later, as racial desegregation advanced in the wake of the civil rights movement, the organizations combined forces to become the modern National Edu- cation Association. "No one knew whether the new melting pot would be successful, but one America meant one America," said E.B. Palmer, former executive director of the North Carolina Teachers Association (an ATA affiliate), recalling the merger. "By merging, NEA and ATA were way ahead of the rest of the country ā€” paving the way for businesses and government to follow their example. By merging with ATA, NEA set the tone for the social fabric of America." ATA and NEA's work over the years encompassed critical social justice and human and civil rights issues in U.S. history. e work con- tinues today. TIMELINE 1870ā€“1890: Independent black teacher associations form in several mostly Southern states. 1904: Following the U.S. Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson ruling (1896) upholding "separate but equal" segregated schools, J.R.E. Lee convenes black educators in Nashville, Tenn., to found the National Association of Colored Teachers (NACT). NACT would change its name several times, eventually becoming ATA in 1937. 1910: NEA's Representative Assembly (RA) elects Ella Flagg Young as the first female NEA president ā€” a full decade before Congress passes the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. 1926: A joint committee between the two organizations is formed to study accreditation problems of Southern black high schools and the quality of black education. The committee's work continues for decades. It advocates equal school funding; collects data on the status of black education; promotes fair treatment of blacks in textbooks; urges NEA to include black speakers at Representative Assemblies; and recommends NEA meetings be held in cities where all delegates are treated with respect. 1930sā€“1950s: ATA and state affiliates provide funds, plaintiffs, reports, and expert witnesses for numerous legal cases on teacher salaries filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They assist in NAACP's cases challenging inadequate and discriminatory classroom conditions, school funding policies, and school transportation systems. NEA helps by giving NAACP access to its records on black and white teacher salaries. In 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court lets stand an appeals court ruling that dual salary schedules based on race are unconstitutional. 1954: The Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that racially separate schools "are inherently unequal" and reverses Plessy. One year later, the modern civil rights movement is born, sparked by Rosa Parks' refusal to sit in the back of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., and the Supreme Court orders public school systems to desegregate. Though NEA does not publicly support Brown until 1961, a number of ATA and NEA state affiliates merge in the next few years. Late 1950s: When school districts in 17 states use court- ordered desegregation as an excuse to dismiss hundreds of black teachers, NEA establishes a $1 million fund to "protect and promote the professional, civil, and human rights of educators." This fund and the joint committee help support black teachers who are fired for participating in voter registration drives that are central to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. 1963: NEA RA asks the joint committee to report to the 1964 RA about a possible NEA and ATA merger. The following year, NEA passes a resolution requiring racially segregated affiliates to merge. 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in public accommodations, public education, employment, apprentice programs and union memberships, and to some extent, voting. In 1965, Johnson addresses NEA RA; he also signs the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Higher Education Act, providing critically needed federal funds for low-income and ethnic minority students. 1966: NEA and ATA vote to merge. A ceremony takes place at NEA RA in Miami Beach, Florida. After the signing, the assembly sings the chorus "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!" from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." 50

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - May / June 2016