UNF preserving 1930s-era African American writings by Violet Muse

The project, in partnership with the Jacksonville Historical Society, is funded with a $100,000 federal grant.

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With a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of North Florida faculty is curating “Documenting Black Jacksonville: The Viola Muse Digital Edition.”

In association with the Jacksonville Historical Society and the Digital Humanities Institute, the UNF team is assembling the writings and papers of Muse, who owned a hair salon in LaVilla and worked from 1936 to 1940 in the Negro Writers’ Division of the Florida Federal Writers Project.

The papers will be made digitally available to the public for the first time.

Muse composed stories about Florida’s past and present from an African American perspective. During the years in which she worked for the Federal Writers Project, she traveled around LaVilla and other black neighborhoods in Jacksonville to interview residents.

Muse jotted her notes on the back of Depression-era job relief forms, paraphrasing the stories her subjects relayed and recording her own observations about the people, their homes and their workplaces.

Little of the information Muse collected was published and her notes have been in the custody of the Jacksonville Historical Society since 1958. 

The Viola Muse Digital Edition will make some of the lost histories of African American Jacksonville publicly available for the first time. The digital edition will include 73 documents comprising 262 pages.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding proposals from around the nation.

The Scholarly Editions and Translations grant awarded to UNF supports the preparation of editions and translations of texts that are valuable to the humanities but are inaccessible or available only in inadequate editions.