In a welcome pamphlet to the delegates of the 1936 National Baptist Convention held in Jacksonville, Eartha M.M. White extolled the contributions of Black citizens to the town from its earliest days:
the influence of the Negro on the history of the community has been felt and appreciated since the days of the first City Fathers. As early as 1725, a United States Army officer, attempting to march his troops into what was then called ‘The Cow Ford,’ complained to his superiors that the Indians who opposed him all the way down the Saint John’s River were led ‘by Negroes who are the most courageous fighters.’
White goes on to discuss the multitude of Black artisans and skilled laborers as well as “an almost all-Negro city government, with such high officials in state offices as the Secretary of State” a century and a half later.
White documented in 1936 that Jacksonville’s total population was 146,259, with 54,697 being Black residents. The majority of these were “normally working people, even in the past few ‘depression’ years.” Viola Muse was among these varied and skilled residents, as were her interviewees. Although a number of Muse’s interviews took place in Tampa, Florida, the majority were taken in Jacksonville, particularly in the neighborhoods of LaVilla and Durkeeville.