Robert Moton Elementary School

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History of the School

The building in which the Health Dept. is now housed was once known as the Robert Moton High School. It was the second location for the high school which carried the name of this famous black educator of the 1920’s and 30’s. His accomplishments, at least in this area of Carroll County, are little known and all but forgotten.

Let us return to the beginning of last century and try to find out what schooling was like in Carroll County for blacks, using the Robert Moton School as an example. There were three schools in existence for black children in the Westminster area in 1892. Western Chapel, somewhere outside the town of Westminster, a Union Street school and a Charles Street school which were both within city limits. Two of the three schools were one room school houses which encompassed eight grades. On the town side of the college is a street known as Union St. It was on this road that the two story " School for Colored Children of Carroll County" stood. The school grew to such an extent that a high school department was added to the elementary school. By the late 1920’s , it became evident that a new school was needed to house the increasing enrollment.

In 1930 two large portable buildings were moved from other school locations to a hillside site on the other side of town at the corner of Charles and Church streets. ( Do not confuse this with the one room Charles Street school of 1892.) Sixty high school age students moved to this new location from throughout the county. The new building contained one large and two small rooms on the lower level and two large classrooms upstairs. To take care of the "basic necessities of life", outhouses were provided.

When the school opened its doors, Mr. E. Jerry Williams became the first teaching principal. Accompanying him on the staff were two full time teachers and one part time home economics teacher. It is interesting to note that the part time teacher, Miss Mae Prince, spent the remainder of her day as a county supervisor of colored schools in the county somewhere around 1910. In 1931-1932, the second year of the school’s existence, George M. Crawford became principal.

From school board records and Mr. Crawford’s background we know that the school had a very active PTA who worked with the staff developing a name for the school. Mrs. Mamie Dixon, mother of Richard Dixon who just retired as state treasurer, headed the committee that named the school. The name suggested was Robert Moton. Dr. Moton, in the 30’s, was advisor to the White House and a noted speaker on racial good will.

Dr. Crawford told a reporter that during the time he was principal at the school there was "deep community commitment to education". Parents were willing to give of their time and of themselves in doing anything they could to improve the school. They busied themselves sewing stage curtains, landscaping and designing areas of the school which would be devoted to a library and a stage for theatrical productions and assemblies. They were also successful in establishing a country wide PTA.

Unselfish people were at Robert Moton. Mr. Alonzo Lee lived in Howard county and taught at the school. He for many years, provided bus service for the children of the high school. He would pick up the bus each morning in Mt. Airy to begin a two hour trip through Paarville, Union Bridge, Taylorsville, Eldersburg and then along Rt 32 into Westminster. And all this for not one cent of pay. The bus was a second hand one. It had been bought by the PTA and staff because as of 1934, bus transportation was not provided for black high school students in the county.

Due to the support of the black community in establishing a regular bus service, the Robert Moton High School continued in growth until 1948 when a new building was provided at the junction of Charles Street and South Center Street. This building remained a high school until 1955 when county schools were integrated. Moton students entered public high schools in their own localities. Robert Moton High School then became Robert Moton Elementary until 1976 when the new elementary school was built off Route 32. The building became vacant for less than a year. It is now the Health Dept.

article by Diana Scott

Robert Russa Moton

Investigation shows that Robert Moton was not from Carroll County or from Maryland. He was the son of Booker and Emily ( Brown) Moton. In his autobiography, Finding A Way Out, Moton gives an account of his "roots" as told to him by his grandmother. Her great grandfather, in 1735, was a tribal chieftain from the west coast of Africa. Custom among warring African tribes assured the winner of the right to do as he wished with the spoils of war. This chief intended to exchange his captives for trinkets of various kinds with the captain and crew of an American slave ship anchored near the shoreline. He was invited on board to inspect the ship, wined and dined, and awoke to "find himself in the hold of the ship chained to one of the miserable creatures whom he himself has so recently sold as a slave. The ship’s destination was Virginia. He was sold along with his captives at a public auction in the slave markets of Richmond. He was bought by a tobacco planter and carried off to Amelia County. Moton’s father’s mother was also brought directly from Africa. She was sold to a planter in Charlotte County and it was here that Booker was born. In 1850, the Charlotte Co. planter died and Booker was sold to John Crowder as a Christmas present to his wife. It was in Ameila County that Robert Russa Moton was born August 26, 1867. The civil war was over , and his father "led the hands" on the Vaughan plantation and his mother was the cook. Robert was a favorite in the Vaughan family and he performed the duties of a house boy and waiter.

As he grew older, he watched his mother’s brother teach ex slaves how to read and write. Since the value of education played such an important part in his family, he was inspired to fight throughout his life to lift his people and others, not of his race, into a world bright with opportunity. Moton was an optimistic man. By using his life as the example he could trace his beginnings as a near slave to his present day position as the second president of Tuskegee Institute and consultant to President Woodrow Wilson on wartime procedures concerning the Negro in 1918. Declining health forced Moton to retire from Tuskegee in 1935. He moved to Gloucester County, his wife’s home. He built a majestic brick home he called Holly Knoll. Robert Moton invited many people into his home to discuss issues that were important to blacks: housing, education and civil rights. His home later became known as the Moton Conference Center. Moton died in 1940, he is buried at Hampton Institute( now Hampton University) in Hampton, Virginia.

article by Diana Scott

Why the School is Special

Many students who attended Robert Moton High School remember it as a loving place. The conditions were awful- winters were cold. Students wore coats in class, although there was a furnace. It was going full blast, but the room was still cold. Sidney Sheppard remembers reading from used textbooks and sitting at battered desks, handed down after white students had finished using them. We didn’t have the same facilities as the other students, that was obvious", Richard Dixon said.

The students had each other and family. They worked together to create a loving caring educational atmosphere.

"If it wasn’t for Robert Moton, I wouldn’t be here. This school means so much . It is a good school and you have caring and understanding teachers like we did, Richard Dixon told our school at an assembly in 1990. Back in those days, there were no bathrooms in the school. The outhouses for boys and girls were located behind the school. We had to go out there in the snow, in the rain or when it was hot."

Curt Schnorr, principal of Robert Moton in 1990, said, " It is important for us to know the history of our school, since we are a predominantly white school named after a famous black American, and we should be proud."

After the assembly, Dixon and Schnorr hung a portrait of Robert Russa Moton in the school lobby beside the portrait of George Crawford.

Catherine Allen and Lillain Brown both 1940 Moton graduates, rode a bus many miles across the county to attend the school. On the way they passed several high schools reserved for white students. " It was a really big effort for us to get to school," Brown said. But the effort was worth it. Brown, Allen and Sidney not only accepted it , they embraced it. " Our teachers made us feel there was a reward in going," Allen said.

" I thought it was a privilege just to go to school. We were happy just to get an education. Brown said.

newspaper article from Carroll County Library

Many of the graduates of Robert Moton High still get together for a reunion and to give out scholarships for black seniors at each of the county’s high schools.

Robert Moton has always had a strong caring backbone for its students. It fought for them back in 1932 and it is still fighting for them now. We have a wonderful staff that honestly cares about the children and parents who want only the best for their kids. I am proud to say my child attends Robert Moton Elementary.

Wendy Raith

There are several Moton schools, museums, etc. in the United States. Please go on the Internet and explore: Robert Russa Moton.