Celebrating 50 Years of Unity
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the integration of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, which make up today’s National PTA.
In 1897, Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst founded the National Congress of Parents and Teachers with a mission to better the lives of children in education, health and safety. In 1926, Selena Sloan Butler formed the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers to advocate for children, especially African American children in segregated communities.
As the United States progressed through the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights Movement and the eventual desegregation of schools and communities, the two associations fought side by side for every child. Following the Supreme Court decision that ended segregation, the associations held their conventions in conjunction with one another and worked toward merging in all 50 states. On June 22, 1970, the two congresses signed a Declaration of Unification and officially became one association.
The unification of the two congresses is an important part of National PTA’s history and the association’s continued efforts to serve and make a difference for every child.
For more than 120 years, National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA®) has worked toward bettering the lives of every child in education, health and safety. Founded in 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers by Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst, National PTA is a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education.
Today’s PTA is a network of millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools.
Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst founded the organization when women did not have the right to vote and social activism was not popular. However, they believed mothers would support their mission to eliminate threats that endangered children, and in early 1897, they started a nationwide campaign.
On Feb., 17, 1897, more than 2,000 people—mostly mothers, but also fathers, teachers, laborers and legislators—attended the first convocation of the National Congress of Mothers in Washington, D.C. Twenty years later, 37 chartered state congresses existed.
In 1970, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (National PTA) and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT)—founded by Selena Sloan Butler in Atlanta, Ga.—merged to serve all children.
As the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the nation, National PTA is the conscience of the country for children and youth issues. Through advocacy, as well as family and community education, National PTA has established programs and called for legislation that improves our children’s lives, such as:
- Creation of Kindergarten classes
- Child labor laws
- Public health service
- Hot and healthy lunch programs
- Juvenile justice system
- Mandatory immunization
- Arts in Education
- School Safety
Founders’ Day (February 17) is when we celebrate the legacy and work of our founders—Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst and Selena Sloan Butler—to better the lives of every child in education, health and safety. It is a time to reflect and take pride in our achievements, and renew our commitment to be a:
- powerful voice for all children;
- relevant resource for parents; and
- strong advocate for public education.
Our founders represented women of imagination and courage. They had a simple idea—to improve the lives and future of all children. They understood the power of individual action, worked beyond the accepted barriers of their day, and took action to change the world for all children.