LaVilla Museum

The LaVilla Museum is a museum of African American history and culture located in the 1929 Ritz Theater in Jacksonville, Florida. The museum opened in 1999.[1]

The museum documents the culture and history of people of African descent (most slaves, some free, and not all Americans) in northeast Florida prior to that territory's entry as a U.S. state in 1845, as well as LaVilla neighborhood of downtown Jacksonville (which was once a large and thriving African American community).[2] LaVilla was home to so many poets, artists, musicians, authors, and playwrights that it was known as "the Harlem of the South".[3] The Ritz Theatre is one of the few remaining buildings in the LaVilla neighborhood.[4] Although most of the 600-seat theatre was razed in the 1990s, the northwest corner is original to the building.[5]

The highlight of the museum tour are two animatronic representations of James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, LaVilla natives who composed the famous song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing".[6] Rooms in the building evoke African American life throughout the 20th century by recreating a typical home living room, a Christian church, a barber shop, and a school room.[2]


  1. ^ Bull, Roger. "Ritz Theatre Celebrates 10 Years Back in Business in LaVilla." Florida Times-Union. September 14, 2009. Accessed 2012-03-03.
  2. ^ a b Carbone, Marisa. Insiders' Guide to Jacksonville. Guilford, Con..: Globe Pequot Press, 2003, p. 101.
  3. ^ Hurst, Rodney L. It Was Never About a Hot Dog and a Coke!: A Personal Account of the 1960 Sit-In Demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida and Ax Handle Saturday. Livermore, Calif.: WingSpan Press, 2008, p. 16.
  4. ^ Cobb, Jr., Charles E. On the Road to Freedom: A Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008, p. 353.
  5. ^ Abravanel, Lesley and Miller, Laura Lea. Frommer's Florida 2010. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley Publishing, 2009, p. 554.
  6. ^ Carrier, Jim. A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, 2004, p. 191.

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Coordinates: 30°20′07″N 81°40′02″W / 30.33516°N 81.66717°W / 30.33516; -81.66717