Lincoln’s Legacy: Land-Grant Colleges and Universities

Lincoln once said, “Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we, as a people, can be engaged in.” 150 years after his death, we reflect on the president whose lasting legacy included providing education for all through the Morrill Act. Introduced by Vermont Representative Justin Smith Morrill, the Act allowed for the creation of land-grant colleges, which served “to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts… in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”


One goal of the Morrill Act was to democratize the education system. Early supporters of land-grant schools, according to historian Allan Nevins, believed that “no restrictions of class, or fortune, or sex, or geographical position—no restrictions whatsoever— should operate.” The same went for race, meaning that African-Americans and Native Americans deserved schooling too.

The Morrill Act helped pave the way for future prosperity and streams of innovation that mark the American education system.  Read more about this important Act and its impact on the U.S. education system.