Thoughts on Mrs. Viola B. Muse
by Patricia Moman Bell
When I think of Mrs. Muse, the first thing that I remember is her flaming red hair, always perfectly coiffed. The second thing is how pleasant it was to be a pupil at Jack and Jill Kindergarten. Mrs. Muse took care to teach us how to read, how to write and how to use an abacus to open the door to arithmetic. We sang every day and played in the yard every day. We memorized and recited verses, including nursery rhymes, memorized lines in short plays that we performed, used crayons to color within the lines and watercolors to create our own works of art without lines’ boundaries. The rudiments of science were taught by various means – growing plants from seeds, experimenting with solids in water and observing insects and animals in the yard. She was a gifted teacher whose students graduated from the school fully prepared for first grade and, quite often, “skipped” to the second because of the skills learned under her care.
Years later, after becoming an anthropologist, I came across her work during the WPA while doing research on an unrelated topic. Having stored that information away for future use, I was excited to discover that UNF would be compiling and cataloguing her work in a format useable by both scholars and the public. Let me be clear: this ethnographic work is very, very important. The further we get away from the history of slavery and, indeed, of the Depression, the more likely it is that reality will be swallowed up and forgotten. Viola Muse made a substantial contribution to this community and to scholarship. I shall always remember her for that.