AEA Celebrates Merger of Black and White Educator Associations

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Education Association is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the merger of the black and white educator associations (Arkansas Teachers Association and AEA) into the strongest professional organization supporting students, public schools and excellent educators in our state.

Please join us as we celebrate the legacy of our Association and honor the work of those who came before us at the 50th Anniversary Gala on Friday, November 1, 2019 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Former NEA President, Reg Weaver, is our Keynote Speaker, and we will also honor several members who played key roles in bringing the associations together.

In 1869, Arkansas Education Association was established to initiate formal training for Arkansas teachers and to improve the perception of public education by the first state superintendent of public instruction, Thomas Smith. For the next two decades, AEA made definitive advances in supporting education and bettering both the teachers’ preparedness and public education in Arkansas.

But, by 1899, AEA made changes to its constitution which involved the definitions of membership; and for the fist time, membership in AEA was limited to white people.

With the segregation of the state education association, the Arkansas Teachers Association was formed in 1898. Its focus was to foster conditions for the education of black youth, creating better school buildings, better equipment, and more adequately prepared teachers, and better health and education welfare for black people.

For years, the two organizations worked parallel to one another. Each had similar missions for their members. As Arkansas’s public education system took shape the need arose for a singular group to advocate and support public education for black and white students alike, to be a voice for the needs of teachers and schools, and to reform education in Arkansas. In 1963, the two organizations met to discuss how they could work collaboratively to meet this need.

Their goal was to ensure all of Arkansas’s children-no matter their ethnicity or where they lived in the state-would have a public-school education to propel them to be successful as adults and that our schools would also have a healthy professional environment for educators. Their efforts resulted in the joint merger of the AEA and ATA on July 1, 1969.

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