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Digital Humanities Institute releases Viola Muse digital archive of 1930s-era African American writings

Viola MuseThe University of North Florida Digital Humanities Institute (DHI), along with the Africana Studies program, announces the publishing of the Viola Muse Digital Edition (VMDE) that makes her accounts of 1930s African American life in Jacksonville publicly available for the first time.

Viola B. Muse was a local hair salon owner who worked from 1936 to 1939 as a writer in the Negro Writers’ Division of the Florida Federal Writers Project, headquartered in Jacksonville. The Negro Writers Division was the first and one of the largest of its kind. Muse and the other writers were tasked with composing an account of Florida’s past and present from an African American perspective. During the years in which she worked for the Federal Writers Project, Muse traveled around Lavilla, Durkeeville, Brooklyn and neighborhoods in Jacksonville to interview everyday citizens.

The VMDE includes historical maps that locate the homes of Muse’s interview subjects and other localities mentioned, along with contextual essays on Muse’s biography, the history of the Florida Federal Writers Project and the Florida Negro Writers Unit, and the geography of early 20th-century African American Jacksonville, and more never before seen documents and photos.

The VMDE is a collaboration between UNF and the Jacksonville Historical Society, where Muse’s papers are held. This scholarly digital edition was undertaken with the support of the DHI and a Scholarly Editions and Translations grant awarded to UNF by the National Endowment for the Humanities to foster the preparation of editions and translations of texts that are valuable to the humanities but are inaccessible or available only in inadequate editions.

The project was led by Dr. Laura Heffernan, professor of English, working with Dr. Tru Leverette, professor of English and Director of Africana Studies, and Dr. Clayton McCarl, associate professor of Spanish and Digital Humanities. All photographs of Viola B. Muse in the VDME appear courtesy of the Ritz Theater and Museum in Jacksonville.

For questions, comments or to contribute a remembrance of Viola B. Muse, contact the DHI.