LAND GRANT AND UNIVERSITIES: A PRIMER
The history of land grant colleges of agriculture is intertwined with the history of higher education for U.S. citizens of average means.
The land grant system began in 1862 with the passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act. This law gave states public lands provided the lands be sold or used for profit and the proceeds used to establish one college—hence, land grant colleges—that would teach agriculture and the mechanical arts.
The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 can be read in its entirety here.
Land grants status for the establishment of colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts was also later given to U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The legislative mandate for these land grant colleges helped extend higher education to broad segments of the U.S. population.
In 1889, many Land Grant colleges were largely segregated. In an effort to seek Federal funding, these Public Universities were required to integrate. However, Public Universities in most states responded by legislating new agricultural and mechanical arts colleges for Black citizens rather than enhance existing institutions through integrated programs. The Act passed in 1890 gave rise to a network of often poorly financed colleges known as the “1890” Land Grant Universities. This Act, passed by Congress in 1890, provided for annual appropriations to each state to support its land grant college.
The Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890 can be read in its entirety here.
In addition to appropriating funding, a state could escape this provision, however, if separate institutions were maintained and the funds divided in a "just," but not necessarily equal, manner.
Thus the 1890 act led to the establishment of land grant institutions for African Americans.
Today there are 19 “1890” institutions - including one private institution, Tuskegee University - located primarily in the southeast. In addition to being part of the land grant system, these 1890 Universities are among the more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States.
(Pulled from “Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile” by National Academies Press)