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 (popularly known as the "Moton Museum" or "Moton") is a National Historic Landmark located in the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The historic site is considered "the student birthplace of America's Civil Rights Movement."

The museum is housed in the former R. R. Moton High School, most notable for the 1951 Moton Student Strike against unequal educational facilities and resources. The direct action campaign resulted in Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, the largest and only student initiated case consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision declaring "separate but equal" public schools unconstitutional.

Both the school and the museum were named for Robert Russa Moton (1867–1940), a noted African-American educator from the Farmville, Virginia area who was a protégé of Dr. Booker T. Washington. In the early 20th century, Robert Russa 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 the Brown v. Board of Education that called for the desegregation of U.S. public schools. Among the fives cases decided under Brown, the R.R. Moton High School case was the only lawsuit initiated by students themselves and the largest (three-fourths of Brown plaintiffs were Moton students and parents).

The all-black R.R. Moton High School, named after Robert Russa Moton, a national education leader raised in Prince Edward County, Virginia, did not have a gymnasium, cafeteria, or teachers' restrooms. Due to overcrowding, three plywood buildings had been erected and some classes were held inside a parked school bus. The school's urgent requests for additional funds were repeatedly dismissed by the all-white School Board and Board of Supervisors. In 1951, students, led by 16-year-old Barbara Rose Johns, staged a walkout in protest of the conditions. The NAACP took up their case after students agreed to seek an integrated school rather than improved conditions at their black school. Howard University-trained attorneys Spottswood Robinson and Oliver Hill filed suit on May 23, 1951.

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.

As a result of the Brown decision, and following the collapse of state-led Massive Resistance policies, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors refused to appropriate funding for the County School Board in 1959. They effectively closed all public schools rather than integrate them. Prince Edward County Public Schools remained closed for five years.

The Prince Edward School 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 was one of the first such schools in Virginia which came to be called segregation academies.

Many families and students emigrated elsewhere or were forced to forgo formal education. Some received schooling with relatives outside of the County or in "training centers" and "grassroots schools" held in African-American churches, businesses and civic halls. Others were sent across the state and country to live with host families recruited by local NAACP leaders, the American Friends Service Committee and the all-black Virginia Teachers Association. In 1963–64, at the urging of local organizers, the [John F. Kennedy|Kennedy]] Administration-supported Prince Edward Free Schools opened in four County schools leased by the Prince Edward Free Schools Association. The 1964 Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County United States Supreme Court decision ordered the reopening of Prince Edward County Public Schools.

Prince Edward County now operates single Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. Many 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 became a community landmark. In 1998, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.[1][4] [5] In 2013, Moton completed a $5.5 million renovation and open its first permanent exhibition, The Moton School Story: Children of Courage.


  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. ^ Staff (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  4. ^ a b "Robert Russa Moton High School". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  5. ^ 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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