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Left image of researcher in a lab, courtesy of Adobe Stock. Right image of previous Vermont Congressman Justin Smith Morrill, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Celebrating the Second Morrill Act of 1890

Nifa Authors
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

On Aug. 30, 1890, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, signed the Second Morrill Act of 1890 into law.

Sponsored by Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont, the act’s goal was to expand the opportunities for people of color to access education, specifically in agriculture and mechanical arts.

Prior to the Second Morrill Act, people of color were often excluded from educational opportunities at the Land-grant Universities (LGUs) established by the (first) Morrill Act of 1862. The Second Morrill Act required states to establish separate Land-grant Institutions for Black students or demonstrate that admission to the 1862 Land-grant was not restricted by race. The act granted money, instead of land, and resulted in the designation of a set of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as Land-grant Universities to begin receiving federal funds to support teaching, research and Extension intended to serve underserved communities. There are currently 19 affiliated universities in the 1890 System.

1890 Land-grant Universities

  • Alabama A&M
  • Alcorn State University
  • Central State University
  • Delaware State University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Fort Valley State University
  • Kentucky State University
  • Langston University
  • Lincoln University
  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Prairie View A&M University
  • South Carolina State University
  • Southern University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Arkansas Pine Bluff
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Virginia State University
  • West Virginia State University

1890 Institutions at Work

The 1890 Land-grant Institutions deliver programs that focus on underserved groups. Their efforts strengthen research, Extension and teaching in the food and agricultural sciences across the county.  Additionally, they are crucial in national efforts to attract more students into careers in agriculture, food, natural resources and human sciences.

How NIFA Supports 1890 LGUs

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports the 1890 LGUs in a variety of ways.  Through Congressional authorizations and appropriations, NIFA provides funding and support relating to institutional capacity building, research, scholarships and more.

Centers of Excellence at 1890 Institutions

This program supports Centers of Excellence (COE) that were established in 2015 in conjunction with the 125th anniversary of the Second Morrill Act of 1890. These COEs are focused on the goals of increasing profitability and rural prosperity in underserved farming communities; addressing critical needs for enhanced international training and development; and increasing diversity in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. In 2021, NIFA funded 1890 Centers of Excellence awards to Tuskegee University, Southern University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and North Carolina A&T State University. Read more about these COEs.

1890 Institution Teaching, Research, and Extension Capacity Building Grants Program

This program supports 1890 Land-grants as they build and strengthen research, teaching and Extension at their institutions. It fosters improved capacity to advance fundamental sciences as well as translational research and development in support of agriculture.  Learn more about capacity funding in this recent blog post.

1890 Facilities Grants Program

The 1890 Facilities Grant Program is intended for the acquisition and improvement of agricultural and food sciences facilities and equipment, including libraries. Up-to-date and continually improving facilities are vital elements in the development of human capital in the food, agricultural, and human sciences.

Evans-Allen Research Program

The Evans-Allen Act of 1977 was approved by Congress to provide capacity funding for food and agricultural research at the 1890 Land-grants in a manner like that provided to the 1862 Land-grants under the Hatch Act of 1887. Research conducted under the Evans-Allen Program has led to scientific breakthroughs benefiting the nation as a whole.

1890 Extension Formula Grants

This capacity grant funding program supports agricultural and forestry Extension activities at 1890 Land-grant Universities. In particular, it supports practical, research-based educational opportunities that respond to the changing needs of these clients.  Learn more about this program here.

1890 Scholarships Program

The 1890 Scholarships Program provide scholarships to support recruiting, engaging, retaining, mentoring, and training of undergraduate students at the 1890 Land-grant Institutions. The scholarships are intended to encourage outstanding students at 1890 Land-grants to pursue and complete degrees in food and agricultural sciences and related fields fostering an expanded skilled food and agricultural systems workforce.

Additionally, 1890 LGUs benefit from a number of other programs such as NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program and other competitive grant programs. Since 2017, NIFA has provided $995.6 million in competitive and capacity grants to the 1890 LGUs.


Top image: Left image of researcher in a lab, courtesy of Adobe Stock. Right image of previous Vermont Congressman Justin Smith Morrill, courtesy of the Library of Congress.  

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