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One hundred years ago, the passage of the National Land-Grant College Act marked the beginning of a new era for freed slaves and their children.

The grant offered higher educational opportunities for blacks.This week, N.C. A&T State University and 16 other historically black colleges and universities across the nation are celebrating the centennial anniversary of the act, which authorized the establishment of black land grant campuses.

``These campuses now play a major role in the economic development of this nation,' A&T Chancellor Edward Fort said.

``Last year A&T had the largest number of black engineering graduates. It produced more than MIT, Berkeley and Perdue.'

Other land-grant colleges and universities are Tuskegee University in Alabama, Virginia State University and Southern University in Louisiana.

The centennial celebration began Tuesday.

The highlight was an evening banquet at the Holiday Inn-Four Seasons. Joseph Stewart, vice president of corporate affairs for Kellogg Co., was the keynote speaker at the banquet, attended by more than 200 people.

He told the audience that only three of 10 blacks who attend major universities graduate, and that little concern is shown for them unless they are capable of helping the institution win a national championship of some kind.

Stewart referred to the Land Grant Act as originally being a back seat on the bus of higher education for blacks.

``Today black universities have become a free choice,' said Stewart, a Southern University graduate. ``Many seek to return to their roots. They are returning because caring is strong as ever and encouragement awaits them in every classroom.'

He encouraged educators at A&T to continue producing students who could help with America's economic struggle.

Earlier, an academic fair was held in the Corbett Sports Center on the A&T campus. Businesses and organizations along with faculty and staff discussed career opportunities and the university's curriculum.

Students from Page and Grimsley high schools attended the fair, which gave students an opportunity to find out about educational opportunities at A&T.

``A&T's splendid service in the arenas of teaching, research and extension is documented by the thousands of citizens of this state we are serving, and by the nationally prominent research reputation we have earned. All of these colleges are to be commended,' Fort said.

A&T opened in 1891 as an annex of Shaw University in Raleigh. In 1893, the citizens of Greensboro moved the university to 14 acres purchased for $11,000.

Now, the campus covers 200 acres and has 625 acres of farmland.

``By the year 2000, 75,000 scientists will be needed in order for the U.S. to stay in the No. 2 position behind Japan,' Fort said. ``The federal government has no choice but to open up access for minority colleges.'

A&T's vision for the future includes the following:

Increased federal funding through building grants for research, extension and teaching.

Continued use as a prime source of black leadership in producing farm specialists, engineers, teachers, scientists, social workers, economists and accountants.

Other activities to mark the celebration included a speech by Tony Brown, host of ``Tony Brown's Journal,' a black affairs program.


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