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VEA Celebrates 150 Years of Advocacy for Children and Public Education

For 150 years, VEA has stood for educators and public schools.

On December 29, 1863, 50 men gathered at the First Baptist Church in Petersburg, steadfast in the belief that an organization formed in support of teaching would contribute to the nascent movement to educate the masses. Their immediate aims were twofold: to determine how schools could get textbooks as the Civil War raged and to create a system through which the state’s educators could communicate. Within a few years, they had the necessary commitment and a new name—the Educational Association of Virginia, forerunner of today’s Virginia Education Association.

So it is that VEA celebrates its 150th birthday in 2013.

Celebration of VEA’s 150th anniversary kicked off with a special open house on VEA Lobby Day in Richmond, January 28. (Click here for photos.) At  the open house, a specially created exhibit was unveiled, which will be presented this year at the VEA Delegate Assembly in Hampton as well as at the summer Reggie Smith Organizing School and the fall Teaching and Learning conference.

On this page, you’ll find informational materials about many aspects of VEA’s history and accomplishments, including the history of the Virginia Teachers Association (VTA), the all-black organization with which VEA merged in 1967. Most were written by William Johnson, former communications director for VEA, who is preparing a history of the VEA.

Learn More About Our History

  • "VEA Celebrates 150." This is a Power Point with script suitable for giving a brief presentation on VEA's 150th birthday. Download it here.
  • “Happy 150th Birthday.” This cover story published in the February 2013 issue of the Virginia Journal of Education provides a synopsis of the history of the VEA and VTA, with a particular emphasis on how the Association has been a force in advocating for children, advocating for professionalism, advocating for human and civil rights, and advocating for teachers and school employees. Read it here
  • “Education in the Early Years: From Colony to Commonwealth.” Explores the slow growth of education in the years preceding the VEA’s formation. Read it here.
  •  “The Call to Union.” “Few subjects are of more importance than common schools,” read the invitation to the meeting in 1863 that led, eventually, to the formation of the VEA. Find out more about the formation of our Association. Read it here.
  • “Role of Religious Leaders in Forming Virginia’s Public Schools.” The push for public education in Virginia was led, in many ways, by religious leaders. Read it here.
  • “Early VEA Leaders.” Learn the fascinating history of early leaders of the Association. Read it here.
  • "Public Schools Initially a Hard Sell." The first public schools in Virginia faced what has become a familiar challenge: lack of adequate funding. Read it here.
  • "First 20 Years of the VEA." The new union that came to be known as the VEA spawned what has become the Virginia Journal of Education and witnessed the birth of a system of public schools in Virginia. Read it here.
  • "Two Decades of Organizational Struggle." The Association was changing, as educators discussed the basics and value of a union. Read it here.


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