Constructed in 1939, the Robert Russa Moton High School was built for 180 students. By the 1940s, the student population reached over 450. The Moton Parent Teachers Association lobbied the county to build a new school, but instead the county constructed three temporary buildings to be used as classrooms. They became known as the "tar paper shacks." The deplorable conditions, combined with the overcrowding, prompted Barbara Johns to recruit her classmates to help her plan the student strike on April 23, 1951.