Morrill Act of 1890

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The Morrill Act of 1890 (the Agricultural College Act of 1890, (26 Stat. 417, 7 U.S.C. § 321 et seq.)) required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color.[1] This reflects the legal doctrine of "separate but equal" that had been established by that time—Congress and the Supreme Court viewed the Fourteenth Amendment as allowing racially segregated institutions so long as they were of equal quality.

Among the seventy colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's historically Black colleges and universities. Although the 1890 Act provided the states with cash instead of land, colleges founded under the 1890 Morrill Act have the same legal standing as the colleges funded through the Morrill Act of 1862. So, the term "Land-grant college" properly refers to colleges funded by either law.

Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant" status.

In Southern states, the black land-grant colleges operated a separate agricultural extension service for black farmers. In practice, the black institutions did not receive the same level of funding as the white institutions to the detriment of black students and farmers. By the 1960s, all of these institutions were required to end racial segregation, although most of the colleges funded under the 1890 Act continue to have a large percentage of minority students.[2]

On September 13, 2010, President Obama hosted a reception for historically black colleges and universities at the White House and expressed his personal commitment toward their funding.[3]


  1. 7 U.S.C. § 323
  2. Notably, the West Virginia colleges now have over 90% white students.
  3. President Obama to Historically Black Colleges and Universities: "You’ve Got a Partner in Me" (Sept. 13, 2010). Retrieved on July 23, 2012.