Race, Post-Reconstruction Politics, and the Birth of Federal Support for Black Colleges
In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morrill Land-Grant Act, which provided federal resources to support the creation of nineteen Black land-grant colleges. At a historical and political moment when Black Americans faced a violently repressive backlash against what progress they had achieved during Reconstruction, the successful passage and implementation of this legislation was unlikely. How did congressional lawmakers successfully pass the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1890, and was the expansion of educational opportunity for African Americans a clearly expressed objective? Using historical analysis of primary sources, this analysis suggests that the 1890 legislation's investment in Black colleges reflected a politically expedient compromise between northern Radical Republicans who supported greater educational access for Black citizens and Southern Democrats who wished to expand higher educational opportunity in their region while also maintaining the segregated racial order of southern educational institutions.
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