UI150: The Morrill Land Grant Act overview image

UI150: The Morrill Land Grant Act

  • Post Date: 10/18/2017
  • Author: Beth Watkins
  • Reading Time: 2 minute read

The Morrill Land Grant Act, passed in 1862, is a landmark piece of federal legislation that created educational opportunities for people who previously had no access to higher education.

The Act granted each state currently in the union—an important distinction during the Civil War—30,000 acres of federal land per Congress member. The land was to be sold to raise money for public universities focusing on agriculture and the mechanic arts. Each state would create at least one college “where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

The Land Grant Act was expanded twice more, focusing on colleges and universities specifically serving Black and Native American tribal populations.

The article “Democratizing American Higher Education: The Legacy of the Morrill Land Grant Act” (external link) discusses the extraordinary legacy and impact of the legislation.

  • USA map depicting the location of all Land Grant College and Universities and their authorization date (1862, 1890, or 1994).
    Map of the Land Grant schools enabled in 1862, 1890, and 1994. Courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Read the Original Document

Read high-resolution scans of the original Morrill Land Grant (external link) at the Our Documents initiative.