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NEA Project News

Picture of Buena StolbergThis past fall, the papers of Buena Stolberg, President of the Department of Classroom Teachers between 1960 and 1961, were added to the NEA collection. At the time of her presidency, teaching was still one of the few professions open to women. Perhaps indicative of a woman who rose to leadership in an Association dominated by men, Buena was ambitious. In addition to her presidency, she was a schoolteacher, world-traveler, friend to influential people at home and abroad, mayor, and small business owner.

After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from Missouri Valley College and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Guidance from the University of Wyoming, she taught junior high school in Webster Groves, Missouri. After joining the NEA, she rose through the ranks quickly, initially served as Vice President of the Department. As president, Stolberg traveled throughout the United States and around the world, including conventions in Stockholm and New Dehli. Back home, she would open a country store in her hometown of Arrow Rock, Missouri and serve as the town's mayor. 

Her files include handwritten notes, itineraries, letters to fellow educators, drafts and transcripts of speeches, conference programs, and clippings, all from her time with the NEA. Information about the Department of Classroom Teachers records can be found here. Anyone interested in viewing the records of the Department, learning more about Buena, or discovering anything related to the history of the NEA can contact the NEA Archivist at smallen@gwu.edu


The National Education Association, as advocates for educators and public education, took on a unique role in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In 1962, two former NEA departments were combined into the Commission on Professional Rights and Responsibilities. The Commission was tasked with investigating the state of education in the U.S.A., focusing especially on individual districts, allowing them to identify local factors that may be hindering the work of students and/or teachers. The Commission's reports provide a fascinating historical snapshot of education at the local level. The investigations covered the mundane, such as overcrowded classrooms and poor quality facilities, to the controversial, like teachers dismissals following accusations of communist sympathy. Following Brown, school districts in the 17 states where segregation had been required desegregated with varying degrees of acceptance, resistance, and difficulties. Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, the Commission investigated school districts that were experiencing difficulties integrating.

Thumbnail of the cover of Beyond Desegregation: The Problem of Power

In February of 1970, a report titled Beyond Desegregation: The Problem of Power was issued following an investigation into East Texas schools. There were some positives. For example, East Texas schools were desegregating at a faster pace than most other Southern schools. In reporting the problems, however, it draws attention to an often overlooked problem that accompanied integration. As separate school districts merged, redundant teaching positions would often get eliminated. Were the system fair, distribution of the remaining jobs would have been fair, as well. Unfortunately, the reports show that this was not the case. As the report says, "[i]t would have been news if the NEA Special Committee had found, during its study, even one single school district where there was any significant amount of faculty desegregation, where the desegregation process had been accomplished equitably and without the release or demotion of black teachers, or where a black principal had been appointed to the principalship of any school with as much as 10 percent white student enrollment."

The report is 57 pages in all, and provides a background of East Texas' uniqueness, insight into how locals resisted intregration, addresses the question of power imbalance within the community, and finishes with suggestions on how to overcome this imbalance. Eventually, the report came to Gelman Library Special Collections as part of the NEA Collection. A .pdf of the first 7 pages of report is available below, explaining the methodology the investigators followed. Anyone interested in reading the rest of the report, or in knowing more about the NEA's role in integration, can contact the NEA Archivist at smallen@gwu.edu.

In 1963, NEA teamed up with Hollywood to create Mr. Novak. The show was about an idealistic young high school teacher, played by James Franciscus, facing problems many teachers would recognize. As producer E. Jack Neumann described the show in interview with NEA Reporter, "[o]ur stories sometimes will be provocative and controversial, they'll sometimes show the bad as well as the good among students and teachers. But we aim to keep everything in its proper, true perspective."

By setting it in a high school, the show offered rich opportunities for drama created when young people find themselves facing the challenges of adulthood for the first time. In order to ensure realism, the producers asked NEA to provide them with a a panel of prinicipals and classroom teachers to read first drafts of scripts. Some of the crises which confront him during the series include: students falling in love with teachers; nurturing highly talented, creative students; students considering quitting school; hazing; and teachers with the wrong priorities. The cast would feature such stars as Dean Jagger, Burgess Meredith, Jeanne Bal, and Marian Collier, and some famous guest stars included Walter Koenig, Beau Bridges, Ed Asner, and Martin Landau among others. Francisicus himself would attend the 1964 NEA Convention.

Activities Report Thumbnail

The NEA Collection in Gelman Library's Special Collections contains records of the Association's relationship with Hollywood. These include activities reports prepared for NEA's Press, Radio, and Television Relations Division, tracking how educators assisted with each episode, one of which can be seen to the side.

Those interested in viewing the Mr. Novak material, or anything else from the NEA Collection, should contact Vakil Smallen, the NEA Archivist, at smallen@gwu.edu or 202-994-1371.

The Research Division of the National Education Association was born in 1922. It's purpose was to develop and use objective information about education that could be used by administrators to help "professionalize" teaching and to serve as as a means of responding to criticisms about how public schools spent taxpayer money. Over time, it would grow to provide raw data and analysis for a variety of programs and projects NEA and its affiliates were involved in. When NEA's records were transferred to George Washington University, the work of the Research Division provided one of the most useful sources of information for researchers.

Most of the material came to the archives with very little context. Often, groups of papers with no relationship come packed together in one box. One group of records to arrive in this manner were a few boxes of papers from the Research Division, unrelated by topic or even by format. Covering a time period from the late 1940s through the 1950s, they include tables, questionnaires, abstracts, hand-written notes, press releases, surveys, reports, legal analyses, newsletters, and even hotel registration forms. Most of the topics involve finances, both of school systems and individual teachers. Other topics include surveys of school legislation, religious education, and guides for foreign visitors to American schools. They vary in length from a single printed page to lengthy, well-cited reports.

With records as diverse in form and function as these, it can be difficult to classify them as a group. Together, the documents require 21 boxes for storage so it would not have been easy to group them. The documents needed to be described somehow. The decision was made to put the documents in folders titled "Essays on Research Division Topics" to represent the variety in style and matter. They can be found in the Research Division series of the NEA Collection. Despite the generic folder title, they can be a valuable resource researchers willing to dig through them.

Gelman Library's Special Collections is always happy to see its material being put to use. It's especially nice when it's used by the original donor returning to see how we've cared for their material over the years. Recently, National School Boards Association (NSBA) celebrated its 75th Anniversary. For a significant period of that time, they were affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA), whose records are in the library. The NSBA asked Gelman Special Collections to help them celebrate their history with photos, documents, artifacts, and old films from the Collection. From those materials, a short film was produced and put up on Youtube. The video references the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision, the space age, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, Common Core and more significant moments in the history of American education policy. Click on the link and watch the video for yourself. If you want to see some of the original films or pictures used in the video, contact Special Collections staff by phone at 202-994-7549 or by email at speccoll@gwu.edu.

Gelman Library Special Collections recently acquired a rare item as a gift from Alicia Nick of the American Federation of Teachers. The item is the 1847 edition of the Teachers’ Advocate and Journal of Education. This journal was published by the New York State Teachers’ Association, one of ten state teachers’ associations that came together in 1857 to form what would become the National Education Association. The journal itself is a product of its time and contains both language and content that modern readers will find offensive. Nevertheless, it includes articles of interest to parents, teachers and the general public, covering topics such as teaching methods, personal anecdotes, advocacy, and mathematics and science topics.

Of note is an article about how to project an eclipse. At right is one mathematician's illustration providing directions to calculate the time and place of an eclipse given certain criteria. The detailed instructions that follow the image take up a page and a half of text.

The journal is available for researchers to read in the Special Collections Reading Room. It is located on the 7th floor of Gelman Library. It can be found in the catalog here

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