The Teachers State Association of Texas, organized to promote quality education for Blacks and good working conditions for Black teachers, was founded in 1884 by L. C. Anderson, David Abner, Sr., I. M. Terrell, and ten other colleagues who met at Prairie View Normal School. In 1885 the group organized as the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas. Anderson, the principal of Prairie View Normal College, served as the association's first president and held the office for four terms (1885–89). The other twelve founders served in the presidency from 1889 through 1901. Funding for the association came mainly from membership dues. All work, including the services of the president, was voluntary. The association adopted its first constitution in 1906. In 1893 the first of eight affiliated district associations was organized in East Texas. The association played a prominent role in the general effort, supported by politicians Norris Wright Cuney and John B. Rayner, to increase organization among Blacks and thereby stop the deterioration of Black political power in Texas. Because it sought to bring together Black teachers and politicians, the association was considered a primarily political organization in its early years. It has also been portrayed as an extension of Prairie View Normal College, which supplied a large percentage of association presidents from its administration and faculty. The association's major activities included the continual fight for adequate state legislative support for Prairie View Normal College and the campaign for a Black university provided for in the Constitution of 1876. Association members reasoned that without a university for graduate and professional study, Black teachers and their students could not gain equal status with their white counterparts.
The association was incorporated on November 25, 1921. Its headquarters was moved to the residence of the secretary at Palestine in 1921 and to the residence of each successive secretary until 1952, when a permanent headquarters building was erected in Austin. The association's official publication, the Texas Standard, was first published in 1922 with the motto "The Best in Education for Every Negro Child-The Best in Working Conditions for Every Negro Teacher." Under the leadership of president Leslie J. White (1941–43), the association established the Commission on Democracy in Education. Through CODE the association initiated legal action to equalize teachers' salaries throughout Texas. The association first brought suit, along with Thelma Paige and the Dallas Colored Teachers Alliance, against the Dallas Independent School District, which had ignored Paige's petition for a salary equal to that of white teachers. On February 24, 1943, a court decree provided for the equalization of Dallas teachers' salaries. In April 1943 the Houston School Board consented to an association petition for equal teachers' salaries. The association also obtained equal salaries for Black teachers in Galveston, Longview, Waco, Wichita Falls, Celina, and Hillsboro. Although the secondary educational system in Texas remained segregated, the association established a working relationship with the Texas State Teachers Association in 1951 and met with it in joint sessions, consultations, and national meetings.
The association's struggle for a state-supported Black university continued without success until 1946, when Heman M. Sweatt brought suit against the University of Texas to gain entrance into its law school. The association, along with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other organizations, supported Sweatt with legal aid and funding drives. The Texas legislature, anticipating an unfavorable decision, attempted to settle the dispute by establishing the Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University) in 1947. The association and the NAACP, which was opposed to a segregated Black university, continued to support Sweatt, whose victory in 1950 allowed Blacks to enter the University of Texas. From 1953 through 1957 former president Leslie J. White served as executive secretary and led the association as it conducted a survey on integration, initiated further legal action to equalize teachers' salaries, and established working relations with national organizations interested in protecting the rights of professionals. After the United States Supreme Court decision in 1954 ordering desegregation, White quickly established closer relations with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Dushane Fund of the National Education Association, local NAACP branches, and community organizations in an attempt to safeguard the rights of Black teachers, who became vulnerable to dismissal or demotion without notice. The organizations offered counsel and occasional financial assistance to displaced teachers and encouraged the reporting of unfair treatment arising from desegregation. On June 21, 1955, the association dropped the word Colored from its name to become the Teachers State Association of Texas.
The TSAT achieved its goal of guaranteed equality of teacher salaries in 1961, when a state regulation established a minimum starting salary and increases above the minimum for additional experience. The TSAT welfare committee and the Commission on Democracy in Education surveyed the extent of displacement throughout Texas for the 1964–65 and 1965–66 school years and offered assistance on grievance procedures to displaced faculty. The progress of civil rights, desegregation, and the removal of racial restrictions to membership in the Texas State Teachers Association led the Teachers State Association of Texas to dissolve voluntarily on December 30, 1966, following the action of its delegate assembly on August 13, 1966. In accordance with the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act, the association transferred its assets to the Commission on Democracy in Education, which was incorporated on August 11, 1966. The commission assumed the functions of the welfare association of the disbanded association and concerned itself with the protection of the professional and personal rights of the association's members during their transition to the Texas State Teachers Association.