An Altered Landscape

Much of the geography that forms the background for the the Viola Muse Collection has been radically transformed since the 1930s. As in other cities across the United States, a series of forces combined to undermine historically Black neighborhoods. Foremost among those were the disinvestment and neglect resulting from redlining and the flight of white residents to suburbs; the demolition of areas labeled as "slums," often under the rubric of "urban renewal"; and the construction of expressways through inner cities. The effects of these forces are visible in the geography of the documents in this edition. 

Former locations of the residences of Muse's interviewees. Open in a sepaate window.

This reality is perhaps illustrated most dramatically in the current state of the homes of the individuals Muse interviewed and profiled, whose addresses she documented in her notes and draft narratives: None of those homes exist today. In many cases, their former locations are occupied by Interstate 95 or its surrounding right-of-way or the campus of UF Health Jacksonville, or are commercial parking areas or vacant residential lots. For an example of each, see the homes of Aria Louise Rogers, Minnie E. Washington, Hattie Chisolm, and Harry Hanks.

Some ghosts of Jacksonville's African American past. Open in a separate window.

The same is true for some of the African American schools, churches, and commercial and residential buildings that Muse mentions. A few examples include LaVilla Grammar SchoolLaVilla Park School, Grant's Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Knights of Pythias Building.

Some landmarks that remain. Open in a separate window.

Despite such destruction, a few of the places that Muse mentions remain as witnesses to early twentieth-century African American life in Jacksonville. Some of these include the Old City Cemetery, Memorial Cemetery, the Masonic Temple, and the old Stanton High School building. Two continue as living, vital parts of the social and religious life of the city: Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Clara White Mission. (We consider here only the landmarks of Jacksonville's Black history that appear in the Viola Muse Collection. For others, see the city's African American Heritage Trail.)