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American Missionary Association (AMA)

nondenominational society that works to develop educational opportunities for blacks and other minorities in the United States. The society originally grew out of a committee organized in 1839 to defend a group of African slaves who had mutinied against their Spanish owners and had brought their slave ship (Amistad) into U.S. waters to seek protection there. The AMA itself was incorporated in 1846 by the merger of three missionary antislavery societies whose goal was to establish missions for freed slaves overseas. After 1850 the AMA turned primarily to abolitionist activities. When the Union armies began freeing slaves during the American Civil War, the AMA opened schools for them. The AMA founded more than 500 schools for freed slaves in the South in the decades following the Civil War. These schools were actually open to all students and often operated as integrated institutions during the Reconstruction period.

As the South recovered from the effects of the war and developed public school systems, the AMA gave its elementary and secondary schools to the public systems and instead concentrated on improving and expanding colleges for blacks in the South. Ten predominantly black colleges arose from the AMA's efforts: Atlanta University, Berea College, Dillard University, Fisk University, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), Howard University, Huston-Tillotson College, Le Moyne College, Talladega College, and Tougaloo College. Six of these institutions are still closely affiliated with the AMA. The AMA also conducts educational and other social programs for American Indians, Orientals, and migrant labourers.

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