Background Information About National Technical Association (NTA) and Members
The National Technical Association (NTA) is the oldest African American technical organization in the United States. Since 1925, NTA has developed a remarkable legacy in the areas of education, research, engineering, science and technology for minorities, women, and youth pursuing technical careers. It was incorporated in 1926.
The NTA was created to encourage and inspire women, minorities and youth to enter and excel in the fields of math, science and technology. It encouraged professional development through conferences, scientific journals and/or competitions. In its over 90-year history, NTA has garnered a diverse membership, crossing all disciplines in science, math, technology, etc., from educators, scientists, doctors, astronauts, to award winning inventors. It was the only minority technical organization up until the mid-1970’s. It laid the foundation for the many new minority organizations that would follow in its foot-steps. It developed the NTA Journal, the first minority technical publication, to provide the minority technical voice during a time it was very difficult for African Americans to get their work published. Being the only one for so long, NTA has always been multi discipline. New minority organizations organized along technical disciplines and cultural lines; however, they developed the mission, goals and objectives, programs similar to those of NTA.
NTA is and always has been about rising above the impossible; taking on new challenges, helping others along the way as mentors and role models, and making a difference in the world. NTA Chapters primarily located along the East Coast and Mid-West develop and run programs that allow minority youth to experience the fun of science at an early age, and provide awareness of the variety of science and engineering career opportunities. It has programs for college students and professional development.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s, NTA was the go to organization to obtain information about the status of African American technical community and to obtain advice on technical matters affecting African Americans. The NTA leadership and members were national and international experts in their disciplines and civil right activists that encouraged the development of Black Technical talent. The U.S. national needs for technical talent grew and expanded into new disciplines during WWII. This environment led to the development of big science and unparalleled technical development. NTA ‘s worked to help educate more and more minorities to qualify to take advantage of these opportunities.
In the 1934, the first School of Architecture and Engineering was started at Howard University, a HBCU. NTA President, John Lankford, the first licensed African American architect in DC, helped establish the department of architecture at Howard University and later help save it from closing by persuading Howard’s Board of Trustees that architects were very important for community development. He was so persuasive that the Trustees decided to establish the School of Engineering and Architecture. He served as advisor to U.S. Department of Interior and assisted the U.S. Navy during WWII at its Capitol Hill facility. NTA President, James C. Evans was a special assistant to President Harry S. Truman and helped integrate the military after the War. NTA members worked on the Manhattan District Project to develop the atomic bomb which ended WWII and led to the development of the Atomic Energy Commission, forerunner to the U.S. Department of Energy. Several of them went on to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Savannah River Plant and Argonne National Laboratory.
During the 1950’s-60’s at the event of the sputnik era, NTA members like Katherine Johnson calculated John Glenn’s orbital trajectory; Guion Bluford, became the first African American astronaut to go into space; Julian Earls, became NASA Glenn Center Director; Astronaut Melvin Leland, became NASA HQ Assistant Administrator for Education; others led space program research and became NASA managers.
Today, NTA membership consists of leaders in a diverse array of technical disciplines including engineering, computer science, energy, space, environment, and nano science. NTA continues to remain true to its mission to encourage underrepresented minority youth to pursue technical careers and seeks pathways to help them fully develop their talent and have productive careers in STEM. It continues to play a vital role in STEM minority development. NTA has initiated the dialogue among the various minority technical organizations to leverage their influence on the diversification of the STEM workforce. This effort started in 1970’s as soon as new organizations appeared and had little success. However, in recent years, organizations have come to realize that they are not each other’s competitors, rather they are better working together. There is power in numbers and collaborations magnify the results of programs and leads to greater success. The Coalition of Hispanics, African and Native Americans for the Next Generation of Engineers and Scientists was formed in 202. Not only is NTA promoting the idea that the organizations work together, but also to establish ongoing working relationships with other STEM stakeholders in government, industry, academia and other sectors of the community.
Charles S. Duke, Founder & President 1929 - 1934
On November 12, 1925, Samuel R. Cheevers, F. C. Downs, Charles S. Duke, I. Gough, Howard D. Shaw, Dr. A. D. Watson, and A. T. Weathers met at the Wabash Avenue YMCA in Chicago to discuss formation of an organization for minorities in engineering and technology.
The National Technical Association (NTA) was founded by Charles S. Duke, who became the first African American to receive an engineering degree from Harvard University. NTA was incorporated in the state of Illinois in 1926. In the 1930s, Charles S. Duke, James A. Parsons, Cornelius L. Henderson, Lewis K. Downing and Paul E. Johnson provided outstanding leadership as presidents.
President Downing was the first engineering dean at Howard University and along with other NTA members played a major role in saving that institution's School of Engineering from closing.
From the first decade until today, NTA leadership along with its members have had a remarkable history of achievement in the areas of education, research, engineering, science and technology.
History of the National Technical Association Book Publication Project
One of the most recent projects begun by the NTA , by its Publications and Editorial Review Committee and other NTA members, is to collect information on the history of the NTA, beginning at (or even prior to) its formal creation in 1926. This information would then be published in book form, for broad distribution to NTA members and affiliates, and the general public.This was also a topic which was discussed at the NTA 2006 Conference in Chicago, the NTA 80th Anniversary program held at Howard University June 17, 2006 (see Summer, 2006 issue of the NTA Newsletter, page 7) and the NTA National Board meeting at Howard University, Washington DC, in October, 2006.
We are seeking, especially from longer-term members of NTA, copies of previous documents (NTA journals and newsletters), especially in the time period prior to 1980, for which our current collection is incomplete. We will return these items to the sender, if desired, after making copies of them for our potential use. We will also appreciate any information about where to find documents of historical relevance.We also are thankful to those of you who have already provided information. We give special thanks to John H. Thompson for his previous NTA History documents, published in previous issues of the NTA Journal and NTA Newsletter, and to Dr. Kathleen Prestwidge for her contributions and participation in this activity.NTA National Board members and NTA DC Chapter members visited the Moorland-Spingarn archives at Howard University during the October, 2006 NTA National Board Meeting, to view some of the collection of photographs and documents which are in storage there. Ms. Amy Billingsley (great-granddaughter of NTA founder Charles S. Duke) took several photos of the NTA Board (and NTA DC Chapter) participants who were in attendance.