In December 1949, the Association of Directors of Speech Activities, a group of instructors attending the annual meeting of the Speech Association of America, met in Chicago. These people became the Founders of the American Forensic Association. Their purpose was to have an organization to promote the interests of Directors of forensics programs and to encourage the development of forensics participation.
Perhaps the best illustration of the early efforts was the annual meeting of 1950. The North Central Accrediting Association had proposed that extra-curricular speech activities be eliminated from high schools. The association successfully countered this effort.
Another characteristic of forensic educators was illustrated in 1953. Selected for debate during that year was the topic: "Resolved: that the United States should recognize Communist China." Directors of forensic programs were summoned to testify before Congressional Committees and students at the service academies were prohibited from debating the topic, but debate went on.
In 1964, the Association founded The Journal of the American Forensic Association, renamed Argumentation and Advocacy: The Journal of the American Forensic Association in 1988. This journal marked an increasing emphasis on the encouragement of research by the Association. Many outstanding scholars have been editors of this journal.
In 1966, the National Debate Tournament was established. The Tournament continued the tradition of an end of the year championship tournament begun by the United States Military Academy in 1947. In 1977, the NDT was joined by the National Individual Events Tournament.
In 1979, the Association joined the Speech Communication Association in establishing the Summer Conference on Argumentation. The Conference has been an important element in encouraging the development of research in argumentation and advocacy.
Today, the Association conducts many activities in support of forensics directors and their students.