Clayton LeBouef has a very clear memory of when he first encountered Henrietta Vinton Davis. It was 1992, not long before he won the role of Baltimore Police Col. George Barnfather in TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street. LeBouef was a Washington, D.C.-based actor performing in a CenterStage production of Shakespeare’s little-produced Pericles. Rehearsals were over, and opening night loomed.
Cultural Tourism DC announced that it will unveil a plaque at the former residence of the Honorable Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis on May 8, 2010 at 2pm.
Miss Davis’ residence has been a part of Cultural Tourism DC’s African American Heritage Trail for nearly a decade. The recognition comes on the heels of a “Livication” program honoring Miss Davis at Washington, DC’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library held on Sunday March 14, 2010. The program was a collaborative effort between the Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation and the Martin Luther King, Jr, Memorial Library. The event was the kickoff for an exhibit recognizing Miss Davis’ significance as an elocutionist, dramatic reader and Shakespearean actor.
Her career marked a turning point in the history of Africans in America. She earned a living as a performing artist at a time when there were few with the training and skills to perform with her.
Below are a few photos of the exhibit reviewing the life of Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC.
Mayor Sheila Dixon has proclaimed August 25, 2009 as “Henrietta Vinton Davis Day” in Baltimore.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
AUGUST 25, 2009 is HENRIETTA VINTON DAVIS DAY
-Events to recognize cultural icon-
Washington, DC –Today the Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation announced plans to host Livication Day 2009. The Foundation has as its mission to raise awareness of the life and legacy of Shakespearean actor, elocutionist, dramatic reader and activist Henrietta Vinton Davis.
Miss Davis remained relatively unrecognized until July 1983 when an article entitled “Henrietta Vinton Davis and the Garvey Movement” by Professor William Seraille was published in the journal ‘Afro-Americans in New York Life and History’. Nearly a year later, acknowledgment of her contributions increased with the publication of the book ‘Shakespeare in Sable’ written by Professor Errol Hill of Dartmouth University. In 1994, actor Clayton LeBouef received a commission to write a play on her life entitled ‘Shero: The Livication of Henrietta Vinton Davis.’ Her home in Northeast Washington, DC has been listed on Cultural Tourism DC’s African American Heritage Trail since 1999.
In 2008, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty issued a proclamation designating August 25 ‘Henrietta Vinton Davis Day.’ The designation furthers the Foundation’s efforts to raise awareness of Miss Davis’ life and garner funds to place a marker at her grave. The decree issued in 2008 acknowledges Davis as the first African American to work at the DC Recorder of Deeds office beginning in 1878, before Frederick Douglas was appointed Recorder. The proclamation also recognizes Miss Davis’ significance as a cultural icon. She made her career debut as a Shakespearean actor, elocutionist, dramatic reader and impressionist in Washington, DC on April 25, 1883 where she was introduced by Douglas, a family friend.
The proclamation also acknowledges the success of Miss Davis as a public speaker. During 1919, a year remembered for its “Red Summer,” she joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League headed by Marcus Garvey.
The Livication Service will be conducted at her grave site located in National Harmony Memorial Park 7101 Sheriff Road Largo, MD (phone:301-772-0900). on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 10:00 A.M. Other activities are also in the planning stages.
About Henrietta Vinton Davis
For thirty-five years after her debut performing “Shakespearean delineations”, original plays and dramatic readings with her own performing company, and local troupes throughout the United States, South America and the Caribbean, Henrietta Vinton Davis broke new ground as a successful theatrical artisan in the United States. Her dedication to her craft gained her recognition as the first African American “woman of the stage.”
As a leader of the African Redemption Movement beginning in 1919, Davis made use of her acting skills to promote the aims and objectives of the UNIA. Her ability to “transport her listeners” to another place with her oratorical skills played a key role in both attracting members to the organization and promoting the Black Star Line Shipping Company. As such, she was elected to numerous positions including International Organizer, and Third Assistant President General of the UNIA. Additionally, as Vice President and a Director of the Black Star Line. Davis was the de facto authority aboard the Black Star Line’s flagship vessel, the S.S. Yarmouth, on its maiden voyage. The ship was laden with a cargo worth upwards of $5.000.000 destined for the Caribbean. On the ship’s return Marcus Garvey proclaimed Miss Davis “the greatest woman of the [African] race today” in a meeting at the UNIA’s Liberty Hall.
About The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation
Initially organized to raise funds solely to place a marker at the grave of Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis in 2005, the mission of The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation has evolved to include educating the general public on her life by producing plays, publishing books, producing documentary videos and conducting symposiums educating the general public about her life and the times in which she lived.
MONDAY – AUGUST 25, 2008
LADY HENRIETTA VINTON DAVIS
A MEMORIAL ON THE OCCASION OF LADY DAVIS’ 148TH EARTHDAY
10:00AM Livication Service at National Harmony Memorial Park 7101 Sheriff Road Largo, MD 20792
3:00PM -6:00PM Program at Martin Luther King Library room A-4
7:00PM Rally at UNIA Liberty Hall
Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis
Shakespearean Actor, Elocutionist, Dramatic Reader, UNIA International Organizer, Black Star Line Vice President
Henrietta Vinton Davis born August 25, 1860 Baltimore, Maryland, joined the ancestors on November 23, 1941 in Washington, DC.
An only child, her father, Mansfield Vinton Davis was a musician who passed away when she was very young. Her mother Mary Ann Davis married influential Baltimorean George Alexander Hackett. Hackett passed away when Davis was 9 years old. She and her mother then moved to Washington, DC.
Davis schooled in Washington until the age of 15. She became a schoolteacher in Maryland. Eventually, she went to work at the DC Recorder of Deeds in 1878 before Frederick Douglass.
Her desire for a theatrical career inspired her to study under Miss Marguerite E. Saxton. April 25, 1883 Miss Davis was introduced in her debut as an actor by Frederick Douglass. For over thirty-five years she was the premier African-American woman of the stage performing “Shakespearean Delineations”, original plays and dramatic readings throughout the USA, Caribbean and Central America.
In 1919 her career took a dramatic turn when Lady Davis joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League headed by Marcus Garvey. Initially chosen as International Organizer, she eventually held positions as Assistant President-General and Vice-President of the Black Star Line. On Black Star Line flagship SS Frederick Douglass’ maiden voyage, she was the ranking member of the UNIA and the Black Star Line as it carried its cargo worth upwards of $5,000,000 to Cuba.
After leaving Jamaica where she continued supporting Garvey, she returned to the USA. There she joined the UNIA, Inc. headquartered in NY city. In 1934 she was elected President-General of that group.
At the age of eighty-one she joined the ancestors. Having been divorced, without children of her own and livicating her life to bettering the condition of her people, she was buried in Harmony Cemetery in Washington, D.C. without a marker for her grave.
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