Below is text of a letter from Hilton R. Jordon to Professor William Seraile. Mr. Jordan was a little boy when he lived in New York and shares his remembrances of Henrietta Vinton Davis with Professor Seraile. This letter is verification of the reality in the Liberian proverb “No One Ever Truly Dies Until They Are Forgotten.” Reading this letter suggests that both Professor Seraile and Mr. Jordan were inspired by the spirit of Lady Davis to act on her behalf. May we all be so inspired.
Los Angeles, California
January 28, 1981
Herbert H. Lehman College
Bedford Park Boulevard West
Bronx, New York 10468
Dear Pro. Seraile,
I received your letter some time ago, and am sorry that I didn’t answer before. It is quite a coincident [sic] receiving your letter just when i was wondering why someone did not write about Lady Vinton Davis as she was quite an outstanding person. I am quite interested in Black History and make posters of outstanding Blacks each February for Black History Month, and wanted to include Miss Davis, but i don’t have a picture of her and since I was only between the ages of ten and eleven I can’t say very much about her. I met her when I was involved with the Garvey movement, the U.N.I.A. I was about eleven or twelve years of age then, anyhow I was very glad to know you are writing a book on Lady Davis so I went to many libraries to find something about her, but could not, until a few days ago i was fortunate to find just a little after quite an extensive research. This is the material I found. Miss Henrietta Vinton Davis was born in the city of Baltimore Md. Her father was Mansfield Vinton Davis, her mother a beautiful young widow married Captain George A. Hackett a few years after Mr. Vinton Davis died. Captain George A. Hackett was a recognized leader of the black people of Baltimore and a man of means possesing a generous heart who gave to his step daughter Henrietta all the advantages his condition could allow, but Mr. Hackett like Miss Davis father died when she was young. After a year of her step father’s death Henrietta’s mother made her residence in the city of Washington, D.C. Miss Davis having a natural liking for books made rapid progress in her studies, and by her studious and genial manners soon became a favoriate with her teacher Miss Mary Bozeman who was first to advise Henrietta to study elocution.
At the age of fifteen Henrietta passed the necessary examination and was awarded the position as teacher in one of the public schools in Baltimore. While holding the teacher’s position Miss Davis attracted the Board of Education in the State of Louisiana where she was awarded a higher position and remained until she was called home because of her mother’s illness. The Louisiana Board of Education issued Miss Davis a certificate testifying to the ability and efficiency with which she discharged her duties. In 1878 Miss Davis entered the office of Recorder of Deeds as copyist in Washington, D.C. where she resided until 1884 when she resigned to follow her chosen profession and to carry out a long desire to study for the dramatic stage. Miss Davis studied under the best masters of her day in classic and dramatic literature. Miss Davis later became the pupil of Miss Margueritte E. Saxton a lady of great ability and a very conscientious teacher. On April 25/1883 Miss Davis made her debut at Washington. I hope I have helped a little; Lady Henrietta Vinton was a Lady to be admired, I can see her now as she walked the streets of Harlem in New York, she was erect gracious and a great orator. In the twenties I was refered [sic] to as “Little Marcus” by Garveyites and held the rank of sergeant in the U.N.I.A. Juvenile Corps. I have composed a book of my original poems which is copyrighted but I am unable to get a reasonable publisher and since you are an author may be you can recommend one. Remember me to my niece Norma.
If you have a picture of Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis I will be happy to have one you could spare.
Hilton R. Jordan