As early as the 1870s, Orange County's African American children attended school in private homes and churches. The Orange County commissioners established 17 school districts in 1887. Schools included the Duncan Woods No. 3, located in the Duncan Woods community of southwestern Orange County. The school had probably been in operation for several years at that time. Thomas F. Pollard served as an early teacher there.
Students within the city of Orange attended school at Mount Zion Baptist and then Salem Methodist Episcopal Colored Church in the 1880s. Under the leadership of teacher A.J. Criner, the school later moved to the United Brotherhood Friendship Hall. S.R. Pickney served as principal for 13 years, and during his tenure the school moved into a two-story frame structure, which became the Orange Colored School. It was renamed in 1930 in honor of educator and Tuskegee Institute President Russa Moton and again in 1946 for longtime Orange teacher and principal Emma Henderson Wallace. Moton Elementary and High School, which later occupied a three-story brick structure, was known for its beautiful campus and won acclaim for its sports and band programs.
The district included schools for several hundred African American students and continued to build new facilities up until integration in 1966. It utilized Franklin Elementary,
built in 1958, and North Junior High School, opened in August 1964, only for a short while. Although most of the former African American campuses were phased out of use, the district, which became the West Orange Cove Independent School District, converted the North Junior High campus into a learning center.