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Countdown to Merger—Glory Hallelujah

In 1963, the NEA Representative Assembly (RA) asked the Joint Committee to report to the 1964 RA about if—and under what conditions—NEA and ATA should merge. The following year, Black high schools, like Black colleges a few years earlier, became eligible for accreditation through admission to the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, realizing a dream of H. Council Trenholm, long-serving ATA Executive Secretary. NEA also developed "Criteria for Evaluating Merger Agreements," establishing July 1969 as the deadline for completion of mergers at the state level.

Then, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial discrimination in public accommodations, public education, employment, apprentice programs and union memberships, and to some extent, voting. Meanwhile, the NEA RA passed Resolution 12, mandating NEA state affiliates to merge with their ATA counterparts.

President Johnson addressed the 1965 NEA RA and later established an Interagency Task Force to check whether the dismissals of Black educators were in compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He also signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as well as the Higher Education Act, providing critically-needed federal funds for low-income and ethnic minority students.

Although 11 state affiliates had yet to merge, in 1966, after years of collaboration, cooperation, and negotiation, the National Education Association and American Teachers Association merged in a ceremony held at the NEA Representative Assembly in Miami Beach, Florida. After NEA President Richard Batchelder and ATA President R. J. Martin signed the merger agreement, both men rose and the entire Representative Assembly stood and burst into song with The Battle Hymn of the Republic, singing, "Glory, glory hallelujah!"

Just two years later, in 1968, Elizabeth Duncan Koontz of Salisbury, North Carolina, made history when she was elected the first Black president of the National Education Association.