Robert Russa Moton Museum

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Robert Russa Moton High School
Robert Russa Moton High School, Farmville, VA.JPG
Robert Russa Moton Museum is located in Virginia
Robert Russa Moton Museum
Location Jct. of S. Main St. and Griffin Blvd., Farmville, Virginia
Coordinates 37°17′28″N 78°23′52″W / 37.29111°N 78.39778°W / 37.29111; -78.39778Coordinates: 37°17′28″N 78°23′52″W / 37.29111°N 78.39778°W / 37.29111; -78.39778
Area 5 acres (20,000 m2)[1]
Built 1951
Architect Unknown
Architectural style Classical Revival
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 95001177
VLR # 144-0053
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 24, 1995[3]
Designated NHL August 5, 1998[4]
Designated VLR March 19, 1997[2]

Robert Russa Moton Museum in the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia is a museum which serves as a center for the study of civil rights in education.

It is housed in the former R. R. Moton High School, also known as Robert Russa Moton High School or Farmville Elementary School, notable as the site of a historic civil rights action by the students of a segregated public school. Their initiative ultimately became part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1954.

Both the school and the museum were named for Robert Russa Moton (1867–1940), a noted African-American educator from central Virginia who was a protégé of Dr. Booker T. Washington. In the early 20th century, Moton headed the schools which became Hampton University and Tuskegee University, important organizations in producing black teachers and other professionals.


Prince Edward County is the source of Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, a case incorporated into Brown v. Board of Education which ultimately resulted in the desegregation of public schools in the U.S. Among the fives cases decided under Brown, it was the only one initiated by students themselves, after they walked out in 1951 to protest overcrowding and poor conditions at their school under Jim Crow laws.

The all-black R.R. Moton High School, named after Robert Russa Moton, a noted educator from neighboring Amelia County, did not have a gymnasium, cafeteria, or teachers' restrooms. Due to overcrowding, three plywood buildings had been erected and some students had to take classes in an immobile school bus parked outside. Teachers and students did not have desks or blackboards. The school's requests for additional funds were denied by the all-white school board. In 1951, students, led by Barbara Rose Johns, staged a walkout in protest of the conditions. The NAACP took up their case only when the students—by a one vote margin—agreed to seek an integrated school rather than improved conditions at their black school. Then, Howard University-trained attorneys Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill filed suit.

In Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, a state court rejected the suit, agreeing with defense attorney T. Justin Moore that Virginia was vigorously equalizing black and white schools. The verdict was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Subsequently, it was one of five cases incorporated into Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case which in 1954 overturned school segregation in the United States as inherently unequal.

As a result of the Brown decision, and as part of the Massive Resistance policy, in 1959 the Board of Supervisors for Prince Edward County refused to appropriate any funds for the County School Board. They effectively closed all public schools rather than integrate them. Prince Edward County Public Schools remained closed for five years.

A new entity, the Prince Edward Foundation, created a series of private schools to educate the county's white children. These schools were supported by tuition grants from the state and tax credits from the county. Prince Edward Academy, the all-white private, was one of the first such schools in Virginia which came to be called segregation academies.

Black students had to go to school elsewhere or forgo their education altogether. Some got schooling with relatives in nearby communities or at makeshift schools in church basements. Others were educated out of state by groups such as the Society of Friends. In 1963–64, the NAACP-sponsored Prince Edward Free School picked up some of the slack. The Worsham High School was one of four County schools leased by the Prince Edward Free School system.[5] But some pupils missed part or all of their education for five years.

When the public schools finally reopened in 1964, they were fully integrated. Historians mark that event as the end of Massive Resistance in Virginia.

In modern times, Prince Edward County Public Schools now operates single Elementary, Middle, and High Schools for all students, regardless of race. They are:

Many of the segregation academies eventually closed; others changed their missions, and eliminated discriminatory policies. Prince Edward Academy was one of these, and was renamed the Fuqua School.

The former R.R. Moton High School building in Farmville became a community landmark. It was selected to house the Robert Russa Moton Museum. In 1998, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.[1][4] [6]

Moton Museum 2011[edit]

The Moton Museum is currently undergoing renovations, set to be complete in 2011. The project was launched in April 2008 when Dominion Virginia Power provided a $200,000 grant to the museum to get the project underway. Since the launch almost a year ago, almost $900,000 has been given through grants from various companies and organizations. In addition, Congressman Tom Perriello is requesting that the federal government earmark $900,000 for Moton to support the permanent exhibition. This exhibit requires a total of $5.5 million in funds. Five galleries are planned for the museum, each one specific to a certain time period within the Prince Edward County struggle for equal education. The first gallery will focus on the period leading up to 1951. It will address segregation and discuss the events leading up to the walkout. The next gallery will chronicle Davis versus Prince Edward, the time period between 1951 and 1954. The Davis case was one of four cases combined to form the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. The third gallery will focus on the years that made up the Massive Resistance in Prince Edward County (1951–1954). The fourth gallery will focus on the years that Prince Edward chose to close their schools (1959–1963). This gallery will tell the stories of the families in Farmville that either missed out on an education for 6 years or were forced to move so that education was an option for their children. The final gallery will feature the Prince Edward County Free Schools period from 1963 to 1964. This is the year which the superintendent, Neil Sullivan, came into the empty Moton School and chose to re-open it.


  1. ^ a b Jarl K. Jackson, Julie L. Vosmik, Tara D. Morrison and Marie Tyler-McGraw (1998). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Robert Russa Moton High School / Farmville Elementary School; VDHR File No. 144-53" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying 7 photos, exterior and interior, from 1995 PDF (32 KB)
  2. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  4. ^ a b "Robert Russa Moton High School". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  5. ^ Alyson Fickenscher (January 2010). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Worsham High School". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. 
  6. ^ Jarl K. Jackson and Julie L. Vosmik (December 1994). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Robert Russa Moton High School / Farmville Elementary School; VDHR File No. 144-53" (pdf). National Park Service. 

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