Formed by African American educators in 1881, the North Carolina Teachers Association (NCTA) promoted education as an avenue toward racial progress. Their membership included educators such as James E. Shepard, founder of North Carolina Central University, and Joseph C. Price, founder of Livingstone College.
NCTA boasted an African American membership that included not only educators but also politicians, lawyers and doctors. The Association denounced the Dortch Act, a bill that divided the tax revenues of black and white citizens who supported public education. The Act allowed at least ten citizens to call an election to determine whether only white tax revenue should support white schools and whether black tax revenues should support black schools. If whites called for an election, blacks were not allowed to vote, and vice versa. The members denounced the bill because it limited school funding on the grounds that whites owned more property than blacks.
At the 1885 meeting, Association delegates questioned whether whites had forgotten that blacks had contributed toward the building of the South’s economy. The NCTA argued that white immigrants might be able to benefit from centuries of African American labor while blacks were not. Black educator Charles N. Hunter claimed the act was unconstitutional and allowed whites to have a monopoly over public school funding. The North Carolina State Supreme Court ruled the act unconstitutional in 1886.
After the victory from the repeal of the Dortch Act, some NCTA members pondered how to integrate the University of North Carolina, but the organization remained silent regarding segregation. As a result, the Association petitioned Governor Alfred Scales for an appropriation of 10,000 dollars for the establishment of a black state college. In the end the state gave an 8,000 dollar appropriation to be divided among the state-supported normal schools but not to finance a black state college.
The NCTA remained a separate entity until 1970. It merged with the white North Carolina Education Association and formed the North Carolina Association of Educators. Before its merger, the Association had a membership of nearly 8,000 and was one of the largest and most influential teachers organizations in the nation.