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Our History

In 1857, one hundred educators answered a national call to unite as one voice in the cause of public education. At the time, learning to read and write was a luxury for most children—and a crime for many Black children. One hundred and fifty years later, public education and the profession of teaching are transformed. In 1966 we joined forces with the American Teachers Association. Since then, our voice has swelled to 3.2 million members, and what was once a privilege for a fortunate few is now an essential right for every American child, regardless of family income or place of residence.

Since its beginning, the National Education Association has been ahead of its time, crusading for the rights of all educators and children. Learn more about NEA's rich history, from welcoming Black members four years before the Civil War and electing a woman as president a full decade before Congress granted women the right to vote, to the 1966 merger with the American Teachers Association during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Our four-part NEA Today series, Answering the Call: A History of the National Education Association, honors the legacy and impact of public education and educators in America.