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Portrait of Carl A. Elliott, photograph, ca. 1962

Representative Carl A. Elliott of Alabama, who grew up in poverty and worked his way through college and law school, was committed to extending educational opportunities to all Americans.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Portrait of Carl A. Elliott

The National Defense Education Act

The Soviet Union’s successful 1957 launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, spurred Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. Perceiving an urgent need to train Americans in science, technology, languages, and other essential skills for Cold War defense, Congress committed the federal government to its most active role in education since the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. The NDEA fostered the development of new school curricula and supported student loans.