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Celebrating the Morrill Act of 1862

Published January 2013

The Morrill Act was the groundbreaking legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 that created the nation’s land-grant university system. CSU, the only land-grant institution in Colorado, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the act throughout 2012.

Documentary Examines the History and Culture of the Morrill Act

A Degree of Democracy - How the Morrill Act Changed Higher Education in America (27 min.) was created at Colorado State during a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act.

Using the voices of higher education leaders and experts from across the nation, the documentary chronicles the forces of history and culture that led to the creation of the act - and the enormous impact of the universities that grew out of that act. It offers a look back 150 years at the people that made it happen, including Lincoln and Justin Smith Morrill, the visionary senator from Vermont who championed the notion that access to higher education should not be limited to the elite. Rather, the legislation that bears Morrill’s name opened the door of opportunity for every woman and man with the talent and motivation to attend an institution of higher education.

History and Impact of the Morrill Act

A four-part series written by Fred Brown, was one of CSU's first technical journalism majors, was a significant part of the Land Grant Act recognition at Colorado State.

  1. 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1862 (Published May 2012)
    In the middle of the 19th Century, America was still very much a frontier society. Families and fortune-seekers were migrating from east to west, seeking a new sense of freedom while still retaining a certain yearning for some of the comforts and culture of the places they were leaving behind.
  2. Rebellion in the New Nation Allows a Revolution in Education (Published June 2012)
    In a nation founded on egalitarian principles, where everyone is “created equal,” sooner or later something like the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 would have become law. But it required the most wrenching episode of America’s history to provide the right environment, and the right politics, for the ideal of better education for all to take root.
  3. Morrill Land Grant Act Transformed American Agriculture (Published October 2012)
    Agriculture is at least 10,000 years old. By most accounts, hunter-gatherers in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East finally decided to give up the constant nomadic chase of sustenance, settled down and began planting things, and in the process created a reason for settlement and civilization. But it still required the better part of the intervening 100 centuries for agriculture to begin to move from a traditional to a scientific approach. And that evolution was a major impetus for the birth of land-grant schools.
  4. Morrill Land Grant Act - The Future (Published November 2012)
    THe American Civil War was both opportunity and challenge for higher education. The South’s secession allowed Northern progressives to pass legislation intended to create new opportunities for education beyond high school, legislation that members of Congress from the slaveholding states had blocked. But the war itself, because it needed young men to fight, deprived these new colleges of many of their potential students.

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