This Day in History: 1938-03-21

Lois Jean Barron White, the first African American President of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is born in Nashville, Tennessee. White earned a B.A. in Music at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1960 and received further training at Indiana University. She then taught music at Mills College in Birmingham, Alabama from 1960 to 1962. In 1963 she became a member of the Community Orchestra of Atlanta; in 1967 she joined Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra in Knoxville, Tennessee, serving primarily as a principal flutist. She retired in 1991 after 24 years with the Orchestra. In 1989 White became the first African American elected Tennessee State PTA President. Six years later, in 1995, she was elected president of the National PTA. As president she led nearly 6.5 million parents, teachers, school administrators, and other children’s advocates in teaching parenting skills, supporting public education, and advocating for legislation at the national level that would positively affect children’s lives. White worked to address the problems of urban families, a population previously neglected by PTA efforts. Under her leadership the PTA developed programs that encouraged inner city children to stay and succeed in school. She also led the effort to bring PTA to inner city neighborhoods in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia and other major cities where the organization had not previously existed. Learn more.