The Morrill Act of 1890
Kevin Rolle Alabama A&M University Executive Vice President and COO is very proud of the Morrill Act of 1890, and how AAMU implemented this. Senator Justin Smith Morrill is a true role model, an abolitionist with a vision who believed all people should be able to gain a high quality education. This is still the vision of the AAMU today. Morrill’s work shifted classical studies to applied ones, ensuring students were better prepared to face real world challenges. In so doing, all classes were able to gain an education, which greatly advanced the country as a whole.
About Justin Morrill
When Morrill was just 15 years old, he was no longer to continue his education. His family simply did not have the means to pay for it. Yet, he never lost his desire to learn and therefore decided to complete an education in a different way. He studies politics, horticulture, architecture, business, and more. Aged 44, he entered the political arena and he worked as a Vermont senator and US Congress representatives for many years. It was here that the First and Second Morrill Acts were created.
The First Morrill Act was passed in 1862. This ensured federal funds would be made available through public land sales to land-grand agricultural and mechanical colleges. Each state became home to at least one college that anyone, but particularly the “sons of toil”, could access. This truly demonstrates Morrill’s vision of equality in education.
In 1865, slavery was abolished. Suddenly, some 4 million Black slaves were free. While they were hard-working, most were also illiterate. Morrill believed that they were part of the American family, and that the country owed them a great debt of gratitude. Additionally, he felt that advancing the literacy of the freed slaves would be beneficial to the country as a whole. Of course, in those days, segregation was common, particularly in the Border and Southern states, including Alabama. This meant that many educational institutions would simply not accept blacks. This required further legislation to be implemented, something Morrill got to work on.
On August 30, 1890, the Second Morrill Act was passed in Congress and signed. This Act stipulated that African Americans were entitled to the same rights given to others through the United States Lan-Grant University Higher Education System and that they may not be discriminated against. Furthermore, the second Act ensured that states that segregated its black and white residents would have a college accessible to black populations to train them in architecture, mechanical arts, and agriculture. This was seen in the Border and Southern states, where the Negro Land-Grant Institutions were form. Today, they are known as the 1890 Land-Grant Universities and Tuskegee University.
For Rolle, an African American himself, this history is vital to the understanding of the American educational system. To this day, African Americans are unfairly disadvantaged in educational attainment. He has set himself the goal to ensure this changes, and to make sure that the same opportunities are not just available to black and white students, but that they take those opportunities up as well.