See his autobiography (1920).
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 poorly-equipped 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, he headed the schools which became Hampton University and Tuskegee University, important organizations in producing black teachers and other professionals.
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 protesting the conditions. The NAACP took up their case, however, 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 incorporated into Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case which in 1954 overturned school segregation in the United States.
As a result of the Brown decision, and changes in Virginia laws, in 1959 the Board of Supervisors for Prince Edward County refused to appropriate any funds for the County School Board at all, effectively closing 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. 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.