Early biology lab at N.C. A&T

Media Materials: Morrill Act 125th Anniversary


N.C. A&T Celebrates 125th Anniversary of Second Morrill Act

Morrill Act 125th Anniversary logoNorth Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is joining the nation’s other 18 historically black land-grant universities in organizing a slate of events to celebrate 125 years of providing access to all citizens through education, research, and Cooperative Extension outreach.N.C. A&T Celebrates 125th Anniversary of Second Morrill Act

The celebration commemorates the 125th anniversary of the Second Morrill Act legislation passed by Congress in 1890, which opened the doors of public higher education to all Americans. This landmark legislation stipulated for the first time that African Americans were to be included in the U.S. Land-Grant University System. Its intent was similar to the First Morrill Act of 1862, which established funding for a public land-grant college in every state that would be “accessible to all, especially to the sons of toil.”

Southern and border states, however, refused enrollment to African Americans. Congress allowed these states to establish separate institutions through the Second Morrill 

N.C. A&T’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences is organizing the university’s celebration. It will begin with a lecture by Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, associate dean, on Feb. 17, then building to a convocation at the Library of Congress in July, and culminating with a National Day of Prayer in August. The campus then will turn its attention to the 125th anniversary of the establishment of N.C. A&T in 1891. That yearlong celebration begins in August.Act. The result is a legacy of achievement, access to equal opportunity, and an emphasis on service to the underrepresented by the community of historically black land-grant universities, known collectively as “the 1890s.”

“This is a special celebration for the 1890 community as we look back on our mission and long list of achievements,” said Dr. Bill Randle, dean of the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. “Many of us have become flagship institutions in our state. We are especially proud of our accomplishments and future here at N.C. A&T State University.

“We are delighted and proud to use the anniversary celebration of the Second Morrill Act to educate our community and state about the contributions N.C. A&T and the historically black land-grant colleges and universities have made to our nation’s progress, both economically and socially,” added Dr. Shirley Hymon-Parker, associate dean of A&T’s Agricultural Research Program.

Please see the 125th Anniversary Celebration of Second Morrill Act of 1890 website for more information and updates.

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Schedule of Events

  • Feb. 17: “125 Years! The 1890 Universities Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” lecture by Dr. M. Ray McKinnie (6 p.m.-7 p.m., N.C. A&T campus, Academic Classroom Building, Room 101)
  • March 19: Observance of anniversary celebration during Founder’s Day Convocation, (10 a.m.-noon, A&T Campus)
  • March 19: Second Morrill Act Celebration Luncheon, ticketed event (12:30 p.m.-2 p.m., Revolution Mill Event Center, 1200 Revolution Mill Drive, Greensboro)
  • March 25: Small Farmers’ Appreciation Day (during Small Farms Week, March 22-28), featuring observances of anniversary celebration
  • April 23: 1890 Day, with Wellness Walk/Run and Community Health Fair (Noon-3 p.m., A&T campus, Corbett Sports Center)
  • May 9: Spring 2015 Commencement, to incorporate Second Morrill Act Anniversary observance
  • July 15: 1890s on the Hill, including 1890 exhibits at the Library of Congress, Madison Building; testimony before U.S. House and Senate Committees on Agriculture; and proclamation honoring the 1890 universities
  • July 16: 1890s Convocation at the Library of Congress
  • Aug. 30: National Day of Prayer, commemorating the signing of the Second Morrill Act

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N.C. A&T and the 1890s


North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and the land-grant university network trace their origins to the 1800s, when Congress passed the First Morrill Act of 1862, establishing at least one college in every state “accessible to all, but especially to the sons of toil.”

This Act was introduced by Sen. Justin Morrill of Vermont, known as the Father of the Land-Grant Institutions. A magnanimous leader, Morrill’s vision was about education for all social classes and a shift from predominantly classical studies to applied studies, preparing students for the real world and advancing the nation by providing the opportunity to educate all classes of its citizenry.

Not only was Morrill a visionary of true democracy in higher education, he was also an abolitionist. In 1865, about four million hard-working but primarily illiterate blacks were set free from slavery. According to Morrill, “They are members of the American family, and their advancement concerns us all.”

Thus, he introduced The Second Morrill Act of 1890. which included this class of laborers. Congress passed the Act, including a stipulation that African Americans were to be included in the U.S. Land-Grant University Higher Education System without discrimination.

The 17 Southern and border states would not consent to the admission of blacks to their institutions. Therefore, in the legislation, those states were allowed to establish a second land-grant institution, which became known as the Negro Land-Grant Institutions. Today, these 17 institutions, along with Tuskegee University and Central State University in Ohio, are known as "the 1890s."

The Second Morrill Act of 1890 set the stage for 125 years of providing access to education and enhancing opportunities for all. It is this achievement that N.C. A&T celebrates in 2015, together with the entire 1890 Land-Grant University community.


N.C. A&T and the other 1890 Land-Grant Universities, are ladders to opportunity for students seeking a superior education. We create a campus climate that fosters student satisfaction and a sense of community, as evidenced by our College of Engineering ranking No. 1 for the number of degrees awarded to African Americans, and our School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences recently becoming the largest school of its kind in the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.

As a network of historically black colleges and universities dedicated to providing educational opportunity for all people through innovative scientific research and community-minded Cooperative Extension programs, the 1890 Land-Grant Universities are …

  • Providing relevant and distinctive teaching programs for a broad spectrum of students, but particularly for first generation college students and those who have limited opportunities.
  • Addressing health disparities and obesity prevention.
  • Enhancing capacity, marketability, profitability, sustainability and discovery in agricultural enterprises for small and limited resource operations.
  • Engaging young people through leadership development, 4-H, and other programs and activities that enhance their understanding and interest in STEM education and careers.
  • Developing and expanding national and international access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.
  • Enhancing the resilience of families, individuals and communities for upward social and economic mobility.
  • Engaging individuals and communities in environmental stewardship.
  • Conducting cutting-edge research to generate new knowledge and solutions to global challenges.


N.C. A&T and the 1890 Land-Grant University community will continue to lead a collaborative vision of a better world, addressing the challenges of our time and focusing our work on lifelong learning opportunities for all. We fervently commit to improve the socioeconomic status of the impoverished and help to transform lives at the local, regional, national and global levels.

N.C. A&T and the 1890 community:

  • Share a common thread — the distinction of having teaching, research and Cooperative Extension programs of the highest quality in the food, agricultural and related sciences.
  • Integrate expert research with community-based Cooperative Extension initiatives.
  • Are proud partners of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As a part of A&T’s mandate as a land-grant university, it receives federal funding annually from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to engage in programs that respond to emerging issues related to food and agricultural sciences.

See N.C. A&T’s Second Morrill Act Celebration website for more details and updates.

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The 1890 Land-Grant University Community

These 19 universities comprise the community of 1890 historically black land-grant universities and are joining together in celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Second Morrill Act.

  • Alabama A&M University
  • Alcorn State University (Mississippi)
  • Delaware State University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Fort Valley State University (Georgia)
  • Kentucky State University
  • Langston University (Oklahoma)
  • Lincoln University in Missouri
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Prairie View A&M University (Texas)
  • South Carolina State University
  • Southern University and A&M College (Louisiana)
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tuskegee University (Alabama)
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Virginia State University
  • West Virginia State University
  • Central State University (Ohio, as of the 2014 Farm Bill)

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Early biology lab at N.C. A&T

An early biology laboratory at what was then Agricultural and Mechanical College, Greensboro (around 1899). From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington. Reportedly displayed as part of the American Negro exhibit at the Paris Exposition of 1900.

Field Day at the N.C. A&T farm

Dr. Sanjun Gu, horticulture specialist with the Cooperative Extension Program, describes an organic high-tunnel vegetable growing system during a recent field day at the N.C. A&T University Farm.

Ham and eggs show, 1953

N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension agent Leroy R. Johnson, left, presides over a “Ham and Eggs Show,” around 1953. Thanks to Johnson’s efforts, many African American farm families in Johnston County enhanced their incomes by learning how to raise poultry and hogs and to cure quality country ham. Johnson later went on to present a Grand Champion ham from North Carolina to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Some people attributed the genesis of North Carolina’s hog industry to his ham and eggs shows.

Child development lab at N.C. A&T

Students in N.C. A&T’s Child Development Laboratory read about future careers.

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