North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is one of nineteen historically black colleges or universities with the distinction of being a land-grant institution. Land-grants are a product of legislation introduced by Vermont representative and U.S. Sen. Justin Smith Morrill who had a vision to make education available to all social classes – not just the wealthy and affluent.
The First Morrill Act, signed into law in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln, provided 30,000 acres of federal land to each member of the congressional delegation to be sold with the proceeds used to fund public colleges with a focus on agriculture and the mechanical arts.
Following the Civil War, the act was extended to include states that once seceded from the union, including North Carolina, which established what is now known as North Carolina State University.
In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morrill Act, which stipulated that African Americans be included in the U.S. land-grant higher education system without discrimination. With many southern and border states unwilling to integrate their universities, second land-grant institutions had to be established.
Soon after, Secretary of Interior John Willock Noble wrote to N.C. Gov. Daniel Gould Fowle and indicated that provisions for colored students to have access to the state’s land-grant institution had to be made. Because North Carolina State University already existed, the governor asked if those teachers could teach students at Shaw University to have that qualify. The answer was “no.” That is when the governor proposed that the North Carolina General Assembly establish a land-grant institution for the colored race.
In the fall of 1890, a class of 37 students and four teachers began instruction in agriculture, English, horticulture and mathematics in an annex on the campus of Shaw University. On March 9, 1891, the General Assembly voted to appoint a board of trustees and gave it the authority to establish the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race, comprised of those students who began instruction the previous fall, with the designated purpose “to teach agriculture and mechanical arts and such branches of learning as related thereto, not excluding academic and classical instruction.”
Nearly one year to the date of establishment, the board of trustees voted to make the college’s home in Greensboro – due largely in part to the gifts of 14 acres and $11,000 from city residents DeWitt Clinton Benbow and Charles H. Moore. Cities like Durham, Mebane, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston (now Winston-Salem) all made applications for the college. The remainder of the 19th century was spent constructing the early infrastructure, including the multifunctional “college building” that included dormitories for men and women, food service, classrooms and offices. In 1899, The A&M College for the Colored Race conferred its first seven degrees.
The institution spent most of the 20th century solidifying its relevance in the international marketplace. From the development of a farm equipped with modern labor-saving devices to several name changes, the institution changed as times changed. Students learned vital leadership skills fighting for civil rights and became leaders across their respective industries. The institution grew in size and significance with the designation as a regional university and a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina System becoming, as it is now known, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
As the university moved into the 21st century, global demand for graduates with proficiencies in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics began and continue to grow. Given the university’s focus on STEM disciplines, A&T continues to answer the clarion call to educate its students for the careers of the future.
A&T Preeminence 2020
As one of America’s most highly-respected, land-grant institutions, N.C. A&T has a responsibility to support its faculty and staff as they properly prepare students to create innovative solutions to complex problems across the globe. That responsibility led to the creation and implementation of the strategic plan, A&T Preeminence 2020: Embracing Our Past, Creating Our Future. The plan reflects the bold vision of A&T’s board of trustees, administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners.
While preserving the university’s core values and heritage, these groups have envisioned a future dedicated to advancing learning through interdisciplinary research, exemplary undergraduate and graduate instruction, creative scholarship and intentional community service and engagement. Since the plan’s adoption in 2011, the university has continued an upward trend in the areas of student success, diversity, ranking and recognition, as well as athletic success. The university’s administration continues to work toward meeting goals set for enrollment, research and development, financial resources, and human capital as the university looks toward preeminence beyond 2020.
“This is an exciting time to be a member of the Aggie family,” says Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “Even as we celebrate 125 years of excellence, innovation and pride, we are enthusiastic about the future of this great institution, its faculty, staff, students and alumni, alike.”
Martin is the first alumnus to serve as the university’s chief administrator. Since he took the reins, he has systematically and consistently challenged the status quo and raised the bar of excellence through the development of innovative approaches for the expansion of resources to ensure the vitality of the institution.
No. 1 public black university
Under Martin’s visionary leadership, A&T has experienced tremendous growth that includes cutting-edge research, Carnegie classification as a doctoral higher-research institution and an enrollment of nearly 11,000 students. The university has also been ranked the No. 1 public black college or university by U.S. News & World Report, the No. 1 producer of African American engineers on the undergraduate level, the top producer of African American-certified public accountants, and No. 3 in sponsored research in the UNC System for ten consecutive years.
A study commissioned by the UNC System revealed A&T’s economic impact in the 2012-13 fiscal year was $656.2 million in the Piedmont Triad region, the equivalent of 10,682 jobs; and $979.1 million to the state of North Carolina, the equivalent of 15,909 jobs.
All of these accomplishments and numerous others are the reason the Aggie family has been celebrating its 125th anniversary for the entire academic year with a book – “Mens et Manus: A Pictorial History of North Carolina A&T State University,” authored by retired Professor Dr. Teresa Jo Styles and current Professor Valerie Nieman – and a series of events and community service projects.
Faculty, staff, students and alumni have all been challenged to collectively complete 125 service projects. The challenge has been answered with vigor across the campus, throughout the greater Greensboro community, and beyond. Martin and his cabinet took the lead and partnered with Guilford County Schools to read a total of 125 books to students across ten elementary schools. Additional projects include working on a Habitat for Humanity home, blood drives, holiday fundraisers, and volunteering in soup kitchens.
There are more events scheduled for March and April. While the official Founder’s Day is March 9, the university will observe the occasion on March 24, with a series of events that includes Convocation at 10 a.m. in Harrison Auditorium, a ribbon cutting and dedication of the Deese Clock Tower at noon in Deese Circle and a carnival-style Birthday Bash at 4 p.m. at Aggie Stadium. Birthday Bash attendees can expect appearances from the Aggie cheerleaders and mascots as well as the Blue & Gold Marching Machine. There will be food, games and a fireworks show. The event is free and open to the public.
On April 23, the anniversary grand finale will be the 125th Anniversary Scholarship Gala at 7 p.m., at the Grandover Resort & Conference Center in Greensboro. There has been a goal set to raise $1.25 million in scholarships for deserving students. The black-tie event will include student performances and live entertainment.
“This continues to be a remarkable year of accomplishment and celebration. I am honored to spend it with so many Aggie family members and friends of the university,” Martin says. “It is because of their support that our university will continue to grow and cultivate global leaders and change agents for generations to come.”
2015 rankings and accomplishments
- 1 public HBCU by U.S. News & World Report in its 2016 Best Colleges
- 1 producer of engineering degrees on the undergraduate level and No. 3 in doctoral degrees awarded to African Americans by Diverse Issues in Higher Education Magazine’s Top 100
- Ranked among the top half of the best online degree programs for undergraduate degrees and among the top of the nation’s best undergraduate business programs, engineering programs, as well as the graduate industrial/manufacturing/systems engineering, mechanical engineering and rehabilitation counseling programs by U.S. News & World Report, 2016 Best Colleges
- A top-five producer of degrees awarded to African Americans in communication, journalism and related programs, as well as all disciplines combined by Diverse Issues in Higher Education Magazine’s Top 100
- 4 in North Carolina as a “Best Value” college/school of education by the National Council on Teacher Quality
- Ranked by Money Magazine among the nation’s forty most affordable colleges for low-income students
- Classified as an R2: Doctoral University of Higher Research Activity by the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education
- The lead institution for the Center for Academic Studies in Identity Science, in collaboration with Clemson and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (The center is the first and only National Intelligence Science and Technology CASIS in the nation)
- Won the 2015 Inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl and declared the Black College National Football Champions
By The Numbers
- 50,000+ Alumni
- 10,852 Students
- 201 Major concentrations
- 96 Degree programs
- 6 Schools
- 2 Colleges
- 1 Joint School
- 492 Farm Acres
- 223 Campus Acres
A&T Preeminence 2020: Embracing Our Past, Creating Our Future
- Create an intellectual climate that encourages the creative exchange of ideas and increases the quality of the professional environment
- Commit to excellence in teaching, research, public service and engagement
- Position the university to be a national, premier research-intensive, doctoral, science and technology-focused learning institution
- Embrace an entrepreneurial spirit that intentionally engages university and community partners to expand economic development and civic engagement
- Foster a more diverse and inclusive campus community by promoting cultural awareness and collegiality, and by cultivating respect for diverse people and cultures
- Achieve excellence in academic and operational effectiveness and efficiency