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Land-Grant Legacy

NC State is in the midst of celebrating its March 7, 1887, founding. But another anniversary, 25 years earlier, is just as significant to the university’s history. On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which led to the establishment of land-grant universities.

Under the Morrill Act, the federal government designated land for sale in each state, 30,000 acres for each of the state’s U.S. House representatives. That’s the “land-grant” in “land-grant university.” The Morrill Act universities were established to teach agricultural and mechanical arts, as well as military science. In North Carolina, the law birthed the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NC State). A second Morrill Act in 1890 led to the establishment of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The Act also made higher education accessible to the masses. With its passage, “higher education the United States was no longer confined to its earlier classical, elitist beginnings,” Alice Elizabeth Reagan wrote in her 1987 book, “North Carolina State University: A Narrative History.”

Much has changed at NC State since its founding. Academic offerings have grown to include more than 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. The university’s name itself has changed several times.

Despite all that growth, the land-grant mission still animates much of NC State’s work. The College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences rank first and second, respectively, in enrollment at NC State. Through the Cooperative Extension Service, a partnership with NC A&T, NC State supports farmers in all 100 N.C. counties.

NC State also maintains its connection to the military. ROTC is a strong presence on campus, and the university’s academic and research programs are helping to prepare and protect soldiers. NC State has also graduated more general military officers than any non-service academy in the country.

“The 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act is cause for celebration and reflection,” Chancellor Randolph Woodson said. “NC State continues to uphold the mission of land-grant universities established a century and a half ago, serving the state of North Carolina through innovation, research and extension.”

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  1. If some of the commenters here just spent a little bit of energy they could have easily found the information below
    instead of their presumptuous insinuation that ALL land grant schools stole land from indigenous North Americans, particularly N.C. State. They seem to be myopic in their assumption and appear to wish for ‘foul play’ in the establishment of all land grant institutions. I found the info below in just a few minutes. Sorry to disappoint those who wanted a dastardly background and expect N.C. State to return, no doubt inflation adjusted large amounts, of “money from their Morrill Act gains to programs & scholarships to Native students.” All students with promise and intelligence deserve scholarships regardless of their background but not because of a political position by commenters who chose to ignore the easily acquired history of N.C. State. Commenters should do their research rather than ignoring it to facilitate their political protestations.
    The historical reference below was very easy to find if one wanted too.

    “The Pullen Society celebrates the philanthropy that has been an integral part of the university since its inception in 1887. R. Stanhope Pullen, a well known Raleigh philanthropist and businessman, donated the original 62 acres that served as the site for the new land-grant college to be known as the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. From that first act of benevolence, North Carolina State University has grown into a university renowned for outstanding educational programs, innovations in science and technology and proud service to the 100 counties of North Carolina and beyond. The Pullen Society pays tribute to R. Stanhope Pullen while honoring the many alumni and friends of NC State who share his vision and commitment to a great university.” Ncsu.Edu/ Pullen Society

  2. Paul, I am also currently looking to find from whom NC State’s land was taken. You are the only comment so far that I can see on anything about indigenous people suffering at the expense of the Morrill Act, etc. And I haven’t found any response or land acknowledgement by the university…

  3. How much reflection was done on the 150 year anniversary? This is copied from the Wikipedia page on Land-grant universities:
    Morrill resubmitted his bill in 1861, and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law in 1862.[7] The law gave every state and territory 30,000 acres per member of Congress to be used in establishing a “land grant” university. Over 17 million acres, mostly taken from Indigenous peoples through violence-backed land cessions, were granted through the federal land-grant law.[8][9][10]
    Will NC State take similar actions as other land grant universities such as South Dakota State University that “direct money from their Morrill Act gains to programs and scholarships for Native students.” This quote is from the following article about Colorado State University which “acknowledges its establishment at ‘dire cost to Native Nations.'”

  4. We are trying to change the way cats are treated in North Carolina. We are in dire need of land and an organization to assist us in setting up a cat sanctuary. In Outer Banks we have been fighting animal cruelty basically on our own. Cats are being killed at an alarming rate and the TNR programs are not supporting the cat feeders, who are going through severe emotional stress trying to care for the cats who are being treated like vermin. We want to prove that the cat population can be controlled in a humane way through trap, neuter, sanctuary where they are fed and housed until their natural demise. We feel that in 20 years, the cat population will be absolutely controlled and the homeless cat problem can be solved in a quarter of one person’s lifetime. If people have sanctuaries to return the cats to, we feel they will stop killing the cats and opt for a humane solution. We have started a sanctuary on our own property, but this is overwhelming for just two people. We have designed habitats that have proven that the cats group and live in societies. They can be kept in groups and treated humanely. Please consider this to be one of your next projects. You can truly save domestic cats and stop their suffering and abuse. Domestic cats do not belong in the wild. This problem is a result of human indifference, laziness, and cruelty. The 1950s shelter mentality needs to be abolished. We have proven that cats born in the wild can all be saved. There is no such thing as a feral cat. We have worked with community cats for over 5 years and can prove that many of the preconceived cat behaviors are actually false. For example, the males do NOT eat the kittens. The males actually care for the kittens while the mother is away. Other females help protect the kittens. Domestic cats are the underdogs. They have parks for dogs and graveyards for cats here in North Carolina. Please help!

  5. Your US land-grant university system inspired the creation of agricultural colleges and provincial universities throughout Canada as well. A great idea that has done much for the education and prosperity of our country as well as yours.
    -Ron Williams, prof, Université de Montréal