Texas A&M was established as a land grant school in 1876. Perhaps, in keeping with this idea of the land grant ethic and agricultural studies, sociological studies at Texas A&M were first developed within the College of Agriculture. The first sociology course was offered in the 1918-1919 academic year. In 1920, the Department of Rural Social Science was created that incorporated both sociology and agricultural economics. The Sociology and Anthropology department was created in 1969 and left the College of Agriculture to become part of the College of Liberal Arts. During this time, the Department of Rural Sociology also existed. (And, in fact, the Department of Rural Sociology persevered until the 2000’s and then was absorbed into the department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Science.) The first MS was awarded in 1925 and the first PhD in 1972.
Land Grant schools were established through The Morrill Act of 1862, sponsored by Rep. Justin Morrill and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. Through this law the federal government “donated” so-called public lands to states for the purpose of creating universities that would teach agricultural science and mechanical arts. The states and universities could then sell or otherwise utilize the land to fund the college and the college’s endowment. In fact, these lands were expropriated, often violently or fraudulently, from over 250 tribes, bands, and communities throughout the United States (Robert Lee and Tristan Ahtone 2020). Many of these tribal nations never, and still have not, received compensation for their dispossessed lands while the universities still profit off of these lands and continue to have funds earned from these lands on their ledgers (Lee and Ahtone 2020).
Many universities have benefitted greatly from the Morrill Act. We recognize that Texas A&M University and the Department of Sociology have, and continue, to benefit from this Indigenous land. While we cannot change the past, we can and will advocate for a better future and are committed to recognizing and supporting Indigenous students and their unique experiences and voices at Texas A&M University and within our Department.