WASHINGTON (AP) — In the midst of an all-consuming Civil War 150 years ago, Congress was able to pass legislation that would transform higher education.

This week in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law that would establish a network of land-grant universities. The mission was to expand access to college education so working-class people could have practical studies in agriculture, military tactics, mechanics and classical studies.

The law gave each state federal land to sell to fund the creation of colleges. They include Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland and others.

Now the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is marking the 150th anniversary of this pivotal law with classes on the National Mall, 4-H family activities and programs featuring the schools’ current research.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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