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Robert Russa Moton

Moton in 1916

Robert Russa Moton (August 26, 1867 – May 31, 1940) was an African American educator and author.[1] He served as an administrator at Hampton Institute. In 1915 he was named principal of Tuskegee Institute, after the death of founder Dr. Booker T. Washington, a position he held for 20 years until retirement in 1935.


  • Biography 1
  • Legacy and honors 2
  • Public service 3
  • Publications 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Robert Russa Moton was born in Amelia County, Virginia, on August 26, 1867, and raised in nearby Rice, Prince Edward County, Virginia. He graduated from the Hampton Institute in 1890.

He married Elizabeth Hunt Harris in 1905, but she died in 1906. He married his second wife, Jennie Dee Booth, in 1908. They had three daughters together: Charlotte Moton (Hubbard), who became a deputy assistant secretary of state at the State Department under President Lyndon B. Johnson; Catherine Moton (Patterson); and Jennie Moton (Taylor). All three married and had families.[2]

In 1891, Moton was appointed commandant of the male student cadet corps at Hampton Institute, equivalent to Dean of Men, serving in this position for more than a decade. He was informally known as the "Major".

In 1915, after the death of Dr. Booker T. Washington, Moton succeeded Washington as the second principal of the Tuskegee Institute. While supporting the work-study program, he emphasized education, integrating

"liberal arts into the curriculum, establishing bachelor of science degrees in agriculture and education. He improved courses of study, especially in teacher training, elevated the quality of the faculty and administration, constructed new facilities, and significantly increased the endowment by maintaining his connections to wealthy white benefactors in the North."[1]

He served in this position until retirement in 1935. During this period, he agreed to donate 300 acres from the Institute property to enable development of what became the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Medical Center, a home and hospital to serve African-American veterans from World War I, of whom there were an estimated 300,000 in the South. Moton, together with the NAACP and the National Medical Association (a group of black doctors), appealed directly to President Warren G. Harding to gain a commitment for blacks to have access to these jobs, as whites were trying to take control of the facility. This center soon hired numerous black professionals, attracting doctors and nurses from across the country.

Moton wrote a number of books while he served as principal. He attended the First Pan-African Congress in Paris in 1919, meeting other educators and activists from around the world.

Moton was a member of the Gamma Sigma graduate chapter of

  • The Gloucester Institute
  • Finding a Way Out: An Autobiography, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1921, c1920.
  • Robert Russa Moton Museum, Farmville, Virginia
  • Dr. Robert Russa Moton Award
  • Works by Robert Russa Moton at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Robert Russa Moton at Internet Archive

External links

  • Baker, Ray Stannard (March 1916). "The New Head of Tuskegee: Major Robert Russa Moton, Who Has Succeeded The Late Booker T. Washington As Principal Of The Great Institute For Negroes".  
  • Spangler, Michael (1996). The Moton Family: A Register of Its Papers in the Library of Congress. Washington: Library of Congress.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^ "C. M. Hubbard, 82, Ex-State Dept. Aide".  
  3. ^ Crystal A. Degregory, "Saluting Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. | HBCU Standouts", HBCU Story, January 9, 2014.
  4. ^ Katz RV, Kegeles SS, Kressin NR, et al. (November 2006). "The Tuskegee Legacy smart mans to participate in biomedical research". J Health Care Poor Underserved 17 (4): 698–715.  
  5. ^ "Tuskegee Study - Timeline". NCHHSTP. CDC. June 25, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  6. ^ Heller Jean (July 26, 1972). "Syphilis Victims in U.S. Study Went Untreated for 40 Years; Syphilis Victims Got No Therapy". New York Times. Associated Press. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  7. ^ Cecil McKithan (May 23, 1981). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Holly Knoll-R. R. Moton House" (pdf). National Park Service. 
  8. ^ NAACP Spingarn Medal


  • — (April 1907). "The Negro's Uphill Climb: The Life-Story of a Ladder of the Colored Race I: Ancestry and Struggle for Education".  
  • — (May 1907). "A Negro's Uphill Climb II: Student Life at Hampton Institute".  
  • — (August 1907). "A Negro's Uphill Climb III: Concluded".  
  • Some Elements Necessary To Race Development, 1913.
  • Racial Good Will Addresses, 1916.
  • Negro of Today: Remarkable Growth Of Fifty Years, 1921.
  • — (September 14, 1921). "An Inter-Racial Commission At Work".  
  • The Negro's Debt to Lincoln (8 pp.), 1922.
  • Frissell the Builder: Address at the Dedication of the Frissell Memorial Organ in Ogden Hall, Hampton Institute, 1923.
  • Finding A Way Out (autobiography). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co, 1920. ISBN 0-8371-1897-2
  • What the Negro Thinks. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929.


Moton played a role in various aspects of public service.

Public service

  • Moton Field, the initial training base for the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, was named after him. Moton had died the year before the Army commenced formal training of African-American military pilots at Tuskegee Institute. But under his leadership, the school had established a commitment to aeronautical training with facilities, engineering, and technical instructors. These resources were a factor in Tuskegee Institute's participation in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, a nationwide endeavor which eventually led to the training of African-American pilots at Tuskegee.

There is no evidence that Moton, or any African Americans, had any knowledge of the unethical issues relating to the experiment during its implementation. Moton endorsed the study and provided institutional resources, including medical personnel. The study was finally shut down in 1972 amid ethical controversy. The victims of the study included numerous men who died of syphilis, 40 wives who contracted the disease, and 19 children born with congenital syphilis.[6]

  • The Tuskegee syphilis experiment, a notable biomedical research study in U.S. history,[4] began while Moton headed Tuskegee Institute. A clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Macon County, Alabama, by the U.S. Public Health Service, it became notorious for ethical issues, as it failed to tell participants their diagnosis and did not treat them, even after penicillin was proven in the 1940s to be effective against syphilis. The study followed the natural progression of untreated syphilis in poor, rural black men who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.[5]

Legacy and honors

Robert R. Moton died in Capahosic, in Gloucester County, Virginia, in 1940 at the age of 73.


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