American Teachers Association

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American Teachers Association
PredecessorNational Colored Teachers Association (1906-1907)
National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools (1907-1937)
Merged intoNational Education Association
Merger of1966
TypeProfessional association
Official language
Education in the United States
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Flag of the United States.svg United States portal

The American Teachers Association was a professional association and teachers' union representing teachers in schools in the South for people of color during the period of legal racial segregation in United States. In 1954 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended legal segregation.


In 1906, at a meeting of the Negro Young Peoples Christian and Educational Congress, the National Colored Teachers Association was formed. In 1907, to reflect that many white teachers also worked in colored schools, the name was changed to the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools (NATCS).[1] The members were dealing with segregated schools in the South, which had been established in law. Additional racial segregation and Jim Crow laws had been imposed by white-dominated legislatures in the late 19th century. In addition, blacks had been disfranchised since the turn of the 20th century by provisions of new constitutions and laws in the South. With blacks closed out of the political process, educators found that black public schools in the segregated states were historically underfunded, and their teachers were paid less than white teachers in white schools.

1923 was a pivotal year for the organization. Mary McLeod Bethune became its first female president[2] and it published its first edition of The Bulletin, the official magazine.[3] The magazine "was a bridge between the members of the Association, and it served to inform the public and interpret NATCS to those who did not attend the annual meetings".[1]

The 1927 president was William J. Hale, the first president of Tennessee State University, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee.[4]

In 1937, members changed the name to the American Teachers Association (ATA).[5] The ATA worked jointly with the National Education Association (NEA) on issues related to African-American education.[6]

In 1926, an informal NEA committee was appointed to study issues in colored schools.[1] That began a period of cooperation between the two associations. Following the United States Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that segregated schools were unconstitutional, public schools were gradually integrated after massive resistance. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited legal segregation of public facilities.

The ATA and NEA began to consider a merger in the early 1960s, as a result of changes in education and the civil rights movement. In 1963, the ATA voted a "qualified recommendation" in favor of merger, which was completed in 1966.[7][8] The name of the merged association remained the National Education Association.[6]


The ATA did not support collective bargaining for its members. Instead, they sought to improve the status of education for African Americans in the South by:

  1. Improving teaching methods.
  2. Urging legislation for the improvement of schools.
  3. Collecting and publishing data covering the material contributions that Negroes were making toward their own education.
  4. Building more and better school houses, through fund-raising efforts. (Among these in the 1930s were schools built with the help of the Rosenwald Fund and monies raised by local black communities)
  5. Supplementing teacher's income and pushing for an extended school year.
  6. Co-operating with local public school boards.
  7. Broadening the Association's scope to include private and religious schools.[citation needed]

Notable Members[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Perry, Thelma D., History of the American Teachers Association (Washington, D.C.: National Education Association, 1975)
  2. ^ Sicherman, Barbara; Green, Carol H. (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period : a Biographical Dictionary. Harvard University Press. pp. 78–. ISBN 9780674627338. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  3. ^ Jones-Wilson, Faustine C. (1996). Encyclopedia of African-American education. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 318–. ISBN 9780313289316. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  4. ^ "Black History Month: William J. Hale a leader in education". The Tennessean. February 6, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  5. ^ Tillman, Linda C. (2009). The SAGE Handbook of African American Education. SAGE Publications. pp. 71–. ISBN 9781412937436. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Guide to the National Education Association-Special Collections records". Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  7. ^ Jr., Robert Mcg. Thomas (3 November 1996). "Walter Ridley, 86, Who Broke Color Barrier to Get Ph.D., Dies". The New York Times. p. 51. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  8. ^ Terte, Robert H. (August 4, 1963). "NEGRO TEACHERS FAVOR N.E.A.LINK; But National Group Qualifies Its Support for Merger 'Glaring Lack' of Negroes Formed as Protest". The New York Times. p. 71. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  9. ^ Binheim, Max; Elvin, Charles A. (1928). Women of the West: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Living Eminent Women in the Eleven Western States of the United States of America. Los Angeles: Publishers Press. Retrieved August 6, 2017. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links[edit]