AFT Archive Opens Collection of Shanker Papers

By Ann Bradley — February 15, 2005 1 min read
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The official record of Albert Shanker’s historic tenure as the president of the American Federation of Teachers is now open to the public.

Boxes of the materials, housed at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University in Detroit, measure 105 linear feet. They contain Mr. Shanker’s official papers from 1974 to his death in 1997.

Al Shanker addresses the AFT convention in 1992.

Dan Golodner, the AFT archivist at Wayne State, said the collection covers three main topics: education reform, teacher unionism, and international affairs. All three were dear to the heart of Mr. Shanker, who is widely considered to be the father of modern teacher unionism in the United States.

Mr. Shanker, the son of Russian immigrants, grew up in New York City and graduated from Stuyvesant High School. He took a job as a teacher in the city in the 1950s when he ran out of money to complete his dissertation in philosophy at Columbia University.

In the 1960s, Mr. Shanker helped build New York City’s United Federation of Teachers and gain bargaining rights for teachers there. In 1972, he was elected president of the union’s national parent, the AFT, gaining a platform that enabled him to blend his love of education and his engagement in civic affairs, promotion of democracy, and the broader labor movement.

Next year, Mr. Golodner said, the library will open its collection of Mr. Shanker’s personal papers, including a copy of his unfinished dissertation and his collection of Boy Scout materials. The union leader was a lifelong supporter of the Scouts, Mr. Golodner said, and often noted that Scout leaders could serve as models for good teaching.

The Reuther Library is also the repository of the AFT’s historical records dating back to 1969.

A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2005 edition of Education Week


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