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(1916) Robert R. Moton, “A Life of Achievement”

Robert Russa Moton is best known as the successor to Booker T. Washington as president of Tuskegee Institute. He assumed the presidency of the institution shortly after Washington’s death in 1915. Moton’s life reflects striking parallels to his predecessor. Like Washington, he was born on a Virginia plantation, although two years after the Civil War. Like Washington, he was an exceptional student at Hampton Institute. Like Washington, Moton used his access to Republican Presidents such as Warren G. Harding to wield influence far beyond the campus of Tuskegee. Moton served as President of the Institute until his retirement in 1935. In a speech in New York City on February 11, 1916, Moton paid tribute to Booker T. Washington. That speech appears below.

It is entirely fitting that on the eve of the birthday of the great Emancipator we should gather here to reverently pay our respects to the memory of the one who stands so preeminently as the most unique product of Emancipation. Booker T. Washington’s life and work would have alone justified Abraham Lincoln’s ideas and actions regarding Emancipation.

The remarks which I shall make this evening are in no sense intended as a eulogy, for that would be absolutely out of harmony with the life and teachings, and, I believe, with the wish of our great leader. My hope is rather to call attention, inadequately, of course, to a few of the great principles which controlled and guided his life, enabling him to perform so great and so beautiful a service for the Negro and for the nation, with the desire that we may therefrom learn lessons and gain inspiration that may help and encourage us for the great work which he left to us all to carry on.

Dr. Washington found a mass of unorganized, unconnected people; untrained in self-direction, with little knowledge of self-support and citizenship; as yet more or less ignorant and poverty stricken, but with a strong desire for education and the possession of property; more or less demoralized and discouraged; as suspicious and

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