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Local group seeks space for museum to honor Robert Moton school, Carroll County black history

The second Robert Moton School was built in 1949 on South Center Street in Westminster to replace a structure built in 1930. It served grades 1 through 12 as a segregated school until 1965. Today, it serves as a satellite county office building. Staff photo by Kevin E. Dayhoff
The second Robert Moton School was built in 1949 on South Center Street in Westminster to replace a structure built in 1930. It served grades 1 through 12 as a segregated school until 1965. Today, it serves as a satellite county office building. Staff photo by Kevin E. Dayhoff(Kevin E. Dayhoff /)

Members of a local organization have been pushing for years to create a museum that highlights not only the history of Robert Moton High School but of black history in Carroll County as well.

Former Students and Friends of Robert Moton High School, an organization composed of alumni of the Westminster school, has been meeting with Carroll County commissioners for years, seeking an “adequate space” in the Moton Center (where Robert Moton High School once stood) to honor those who came before them and the school that made them who they are today.

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Robert Moton opened in the early 1930s on Union Street and later moved into a two-story prefabricated building on Church Street. The school served as the learning hub for all colored students — the term used then — in Carroll County.

“It was an inferior housing building and I think it started with just a few high school students, students who were above the seventh grade, because here in this county, they only had one high school for blacks," said Sally Dotson-Greene, an alumna of Robert Moton High School and scholarship chairperson to Former Students and Friends of Robert Moton High School. "There were six or seven schools that went to the seventh grade. Once you finished the seventh grade, you came to Westminster to Robert Moton.”

Because the school served black students in the entire county but was located in Westminster, and no public transportation was available, students would walk miles to the building to get their education.

“The county didn’t provide a bus. There were plenty of kids out in the county who had finished the seventh grade but didn’t have any transportation to come to Westminster. So, the county refused to buy a bus for black kids," said Dotson-Greene. "The parents and the teachers got together and purchased the bus so that the bus could go to like seven little cities and villages in Carroll County.”

According to William Hudson, alum and president of Former Students and Friends of Robert Moton High School, a lot of kids still had to walk as much as 4 miles, along with paying a 20-cent fee, to ride the bus.

“Kids walked these long distances to catch the one bus. That journey all through the county, it was driven by the school teacher. He taught school all day and drove the bus for free.”

According to Dotson-Greene, the bus was a pale blue and the students referred to it as the “Blue Goose.”

What was the final incarnation of Robert Morton High School is now the Robert Moton Center, a community center with a gymnasium on Center Street. The organization had been offered a regular classroom in the center in 2008 as a meeting space, where they still meet today, according to Hudson.

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They group was offered that same space for their museum idea but found that to be inadequate for what they are trying to do and has been pushing for a bigger space.

“We had gone to them to seek the school to be on the historical site,” said Hudson. “We met several times. They were interested in doing that and the last meeting we had was with the state and it was at that time we were told that it couldn’t be done because of the many renovations that have occurred in the building,” said Hudson. "So, it was at that time, probably two weeks after that, we went back to him and said, 'OK, let’s turn part of the school into Carroll County Museum of African American history.”

The Former Students and Friends of Robert Moton High School have been working to start this museum for years and Hudson said the commissioners have been talking to them, but not really making anything happen.

The classroom the organization was offered wasn’t feasible, they were told to come up with matching funds, which they say is “not an option” and they were told to come up with a plan. They provided an outlay of a space they thought would be applicable for the project, according to Hudson.

According to Carroll County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, the problem has been finding another space for the other organizations that take up that center.

“One of the things we are challenged with is the space that we have for our certain offices that we’re responsible for putting in somewhere so that they can function correctly,” said Wantz. “So, we’ve got the board of elections in there and they continue to grow and as a result of that they’ve taken a little bit more space than what they originally had. We’ve also got the Department of Parks and Rec and they are also growing a little bit so we’re experiencing a lack of suitable office locations in order to make sure the departments have the right areas.”

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According to Wantz, the The Former Students and Friends of Robert Moton High School have asked them to see if there is any way they could find space for them at the center and that they are doing “what they can.”

Wantz commends the efforts of the organization.

“We appreciate all they have tried to accomplish and recognize that it’s extremely important to try to get this done,” said Wantz.

The organization is currently just trying to raise awareness of their efforts and the importance of what the school meant to Carroll County’s history.

“That’s the only place we place we can be identified here in the county. It was the only school and the contributions that we made to this county and the horrible life that we had in this county; we thought it would be a good idea to keep that history because that was the only black school in the county for us,” said Hudson.

In their effort to spread more awareness, the organization will host an open house at the Robert Moton Center on March 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We just want to make it a great day because we need to get the word out that we are here and what we are doing,” said Dotson-Greene. “You’d be surprised that blacks in this county don’t know anything about Robert Moton.”

The organization also highlight the members of their communities that personify what the school stood for in the form of a scholarship that they award every May to at least two black high school seniors in Carroll County. According to Dotson-Greene, they have awarded about $200,000 over the years.

It is the fond memories of their school and the mark it left on them that make these alumni fight so hard for it.

“I did not want to go to a white school; for the mere fact that they were not equipped to handle any problems that I may have as a black person because they knew nothing about black people,” said Hudson. “The Robert Moton school was equipped with African American teachers who could understand where we were coming from, help me resolve whatever issues I may have had as a black person. In other words, it made me who I am today that I don’t think the white school would have done.”

Said Dotson-Greene: "I know it prepared me for my adult life. Although we didn’t have the updated materials, we still had resources that came from dedicated teachers that made it available to us.”

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