Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: Robert Russa Moton on Native American Students at Hampton Institute

October 16th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Robert Russa Moton (1867 – 1940)


People even now wonder and frequently ask how the two races – the Negro and the Indian – get along together at Hampton. The truth of the matter is that at Hampton there has never been any serious manifestation of unpleasant relations between the two races. There are certain racial characteristics that are unmistakable, and the two races are in some particulars as different in temperament as they are in colour.

Types more diverse could hardly have been selected than the two thus brought together at Hampton. The Negro, as we have long known, is cheerful and buoyant, emotional and demonstrative, keen of apprehension, ambitious, persistent, responsive to authority, and deeply religious. In striking contrast stands the Indian – reserved, self-contained, self-controlled, deliberate in speech and action, sensitive, distrustful, proud, and possessed of a deep sense of personal worth and dignity.

The very diversities of the two races under instruction at Hampton proved, in many respects, to be helps rather than hindrances to their development. Each served in many instances as a daily lesson to the other in the problems and difficulties of life. The Negro student learned that he did not have a monopoly of the troubles incident to the effort to rise; that his is not the only race that faces a struggle in securing the rights and privileges of an advanced civilization. The Indian student saw the arts and practices of this civilization acquired and adapted by a race whose development corresponded more nearly to his own. He caught the inspiration of the manly endeavour and sturdy self-reliance that have characterized the Indian graduates of Hampton in all their subsequent endeavours among their own people. Through all my contact of thirty-one years as student and worker at Hampton it became increasingly apparent that the ground of racial adjustment lies, not in the emphasis of faults and of differences between races, but rather in the discovery of likenesses and of virtues which make possible their mutual understanding and coöperation.

–from Finding a Way Out: An Autobiography (143 – 146)

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Biographical Notes: Robert Russa Moton was born in 1867, in Amelia County, Virginia. In 1885 he entered Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). Moton loved learning and he loved Hampton. He graduated in 1890, and was appointed Commandant in Charge of Military Discipline.

In 1915, after 25 years as Hampton’s Commandant, Moton was appointed President of what is now Tuskegee University. Booker T. Washington’s successor, Moton had big shoes to fill. He met the challenge head-on. Tuskegee University’s Legacy of Leadership website describes Moton’s contributions to the growth of the institution:

Both the physical plant and academic programs were expanded during the Moton administration. The William G. Willcox Trade Buildings were added along with: the Dairy and Horse Barn, James Chambliss Building, a new Greenhouse, Chambliss Children’s House, a new wing to John A. Andrew Hospital, Margaret Murray Washington Hall, Logan Hall, Hollis Burke Frissell Library, and Samuel Chapman Armstrong Hall. The famous stained glass windows, known as the “Singing Windows,” were added to the chapel.

Academic programs were first expanded from eleven to twelve years, followed by a Junior College program, and the four-year college program leading to bachelor’s degrees in Agriculture, Home Economics, Mechanical Industries, and Education.

Over the course of his years at Hampton and Tuskegee, Moton’s reputation as a leader and educator grew. Such was the respect for his vision that on May 30, 1922 he served as a speaker at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. He was also the recipient of several honorary degrees, from Oberlin and Williams College, Virginia Union, Wilberforce, Lincoln, Harvard, and Howard Universities.

Robert Russa Moton retired as president of Tuskegee in 1935 and died in 1940. He is buried on the campus of Hampton University.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Black Colleges, Black History, Higher Education, race, Robert Russa Moton, Tuskegee University, Uncategorized

2 Responses

  1. Villager

    Ajuan — i would be interested in any post you could produce in the future on Samuel Chapman Armstrong…

    peace, Villager

  2. Ajuan Mance

    I’ll definitely give him a look. I think it would be very interesting to do a piece on the founders of HBCUs. Thanks for the inspiration!