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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Image of the Day: Robert R. Moton

Robert Russa Moton (1867 – 1940) was an educator and the second president of Tuskegee Institute, perhaps lesser known in comparison to the school’s founder and first principal, Booker T. Washington, or the Institute’s third president, Frederick Douglass Patterson. However, Dr. Moton, as did his predecessor, dedicated his life to educating African Americans and shared Washington’s philosophy towards industrial education as a means of advancement for the recently emancipated population.

Dr. Moton, the great-great-great-grandson of an “African slave merchant”, who after selling his fellow countrymen to slavers found himself on a ship chained to an African he recently sold to slave traders. The merchant was purchased and taken to Amelia County, Virginia, by a tobacco planter, where some hundred years later his descendant Robert Russa Moton was born on August 26, 1867.  Dr. Moton recounts this story and the events that shaped his life in his1920 autobiography, Finding a Way Out.

This image was taken about the time Robert R. Moton graduated from Hampton Institute in 1890.  It was given to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, principal of Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington, D.C.  Evans-Tibbs Collection, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.    

A graduate of Hampton Institute, Moton also taught at the school and was the administrator for the Native American students attending the Institute.  He later served for twenty-five years as Commandant of Cadets, overseeing the discipline of all the students.  In 1915, Moton was appointed principal of Tuskegee Institute after the death of Booker T. Washington. To the trustees of Tuskegee, Moton’s ability to get along with both black and white southerners and his potential to solicit funding support from northern philanthropists made him the perfect candidate to further the work of Washington.

Moton served as principal of Tuskegee for twenty years.  Under his administration, Tuskegee expanded its academic program, added more buildings for the Institute to carry out its training, and strengthen the school’s reputation.  Dr. Moton retired in 1935 and died in 1940.

Jennifer Morris
Anacostia Community Museum Archives


  1. Good day, I am in the process of writing a book about the 1951 student strike at the Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County, VA. As such I have become increasingly knowledgeable about the life of Moton, often called Major, and would offer one suggestion to the attached bio. In 1922, Moton was the keynote speaker for the dedication ceremony of the Lincoln Memorial. This event is a story in itself with Moton's speech censored by the president and blacks sitting in the back in a segregated section for the memorial ceremony. Link:

    Thanks for your consideration.
    John Festa,

  2. Thank you for your contribution and providing the informative link!