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Florida State Normal and Industrial School Class of 1904, photograph, 1904

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU)—originally Florida’s State Normal School for Colored Students––and sixteen other historically black colleges came into the land-grant system in 1890 under the Second Morrill Act. Two others were added later. Under the Improving American Schools Act of 1994, Congress extended the land-grant system to American Indian tribal colleges and universities.

State Archives of Florida

Florida State Normal and Industrial School Class of 1904, photograph, 1904

African American Land-Grant Colleges

Before the Civil War, Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont introduced legislation supporting state agricultural and technical colleges through federal land grants, sales of which would fund the institutions. By the late nineteenth century, many land-grant colleges wanted federal endowments. In 1890 Morrill, by then a senator, sponsored a bill to provide funds for the colleges and address racial discrimination. The Second Morrill Act required states either to prove that race was not a factor for land-grant college admissions or to designate separate colleges for African Americans.

They [freedmen] have never had the means, and have not now, to educate themselves. On our part their education is not charity, but a debt overdue.

Senator Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, Speech to the U.S. Senate, December 15, 1880