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History of American Teachers Association

In 1904, John Robert Edward Lee, director of the Academic Department at Tuskegee Institute, called on teachers in Black schools to join him in creating a national organization—the National Association of Colored Teachers, later named the American Teachers Association (ATA). Throughout its 62-year history, some of the most notable Black educators in the nation belonged to and led the ATA.

As early as 1926, NEA and ATA began working together on issues of educational equity, and four decades later, as racial desegregation advanced in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, ATA and NEA charted a path toward unification to create an even greater organization—the modern National Education Association. That dream was realized when presidents of both organizations signed a historical merger agreement in 1966. Today we celebrate our unique and distinct legacies and the strength and richness our combined energies bring to bear on the evolution of public education and the profession of teaching.

Read more to discover the role that ATA and its members played in the growth of education for Black students: