Facebook Twitter

Donate to BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

NOTE: will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

3 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Rock the Vote

NAAAS & Affiliates 27th Joint National Conference

Shop Amazon and help in the Classroom

Moton, Robert R. (1867-1940)

Image Ownership: Public domain

Robert Russa Moton was born on the William Vaughan Plantation in 1867 in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Moton attended the local freedman’s school and eventually went on to college at the Hampton Institute (now called Hampton University).

At Hampton Institute Moton distinguished himself academically and after graduation was appointed the school’s Commandant in charge of military discipline, a post he held for 25 years.  Moton also became a Hampton fundraiser, traveling north to lecture on the school’s programs.

In 1915, Moton left the Hampton Institute to accept a post as Tuskegee Institute in Alabama as its second president after the death of founder Booker T. Washington.  Soon after his arrival Moton began to expand the Institute’s academic programs, adding a new department to educate future black school teachers.  He also initiated the construction of what would become the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital which would treat African American World War I veterans.  Despite local white opposition, Moton insisted that the federal hospital be staffed by black doctors, nurses, and administrators.

When Moton’s proposal was endorsed by President Warren G. Harding, local white supremacists, angry that the annual $2,500,000 in salaries would go to black rather than exclusively white employees, converged on Tuskegee where they threatened to kill Moton unless he gave white doctors exclusive employment at hospital. To this he answered: “You can wipe me out; you can take my life; but you can’t take my character.… So far as I am concerned, gentlemen, I have only one life to give, but I would gladly give a dozen for this cause.”

Tuskegee Institute and the Veterans Hospital escaped unharmed through the struggle.  Robert R. Moton remained president of Tuskegee until he retired in 1935 due to failing health. Moton died at Tuskegee in 1940 and was buried at his alma mater, Hampton Institute.

Robert Russa Moton, Finding a Way Out: An Autobiography (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1920); William Hardin Hughes and Frederick D. Patterson, Robert Russa Moton of Hampton and Tuskegee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1956); Lerone Bennett, “Chronicles of Black Courage: Robert R. Moton Risked Life in Fight for Black Doctors at Tuskegee Veterans Hospital,” Ebony, July 2002;


University of Washington

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2017 - v3.0 NDCHost - California | | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.