This section of the Shanker Institute website is focused on the history of American teacher unionism. It has grown out of the mission of the Institute, with its focus on the themes of public education, unionism and democracy, and the life’s work of our namesake, the late American Federation of Teachers President Al Shanker. Since the Institute is affiliated with the AFT, this section tells the story of our own history.
Our goal here is not to present a comprehensive account of teacher union history, but to make a contribution to a better understanding of it by providing documents – primarily, interpretive essays, lesson plans and oral histories – which provide insights not otherwise found in published accounts. Readers will find that themes inadequately covered in the current literature, such as the engagement of teacher unionism with the civil rights movement, are discussed in considerable detail here.
With a mind to making this material accessible not just to historians, but also to the ranks of teachers and unionists, we have fashioned this section so that an educated person with limited background knowledge could read and understand the material being discussed.