Letter from Frederick Douglass to Hon. Justin S. Morrill, January 4, 1880
African American activist Frederick Douglass praised the efforts of Senator Justin S. Morrill of Vermont to boost public funding to historically black schools. Morrill, who had introduced the first Land-Grant Act in the House of Representatives, garnered support for a second Land-Grant Act in 1890 that prohibited racial discrimination in distribution of state-based land-grant educational funds.
If our government should place a school house at every cross road of the South and support teachers for cash during the next fifty years it would hardly atone for the wrong done my people during their two hundred years of slavery and enforced ignorance. Having been a slave, I have learned the value of education in part from my own destitution of it.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
Expanding Educational Opportunity
In 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant College Act. It provided federal funding through a land-grant system to foster a new form of agricultural and technical education throughout the United States. While that original act boosted the farming sector of the economy and provided opportunity to rural and working- class citizens, later acts in 1890 and 1994 explicitly extended the benefits of the land-grant system to historically African American and American Indian schools. Today, land-grant institutions exist in every state in the country.