MONDAY – AUGUST 25, 2008

L.A. Scruggs, 1893.)




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.


The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation

Giving Campaign Donation Form

Yes! I want to donate to the Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation! Please complete this form, print it out, and enclose it with your payment,

payable to: The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation

Mail to: The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation

C/O The Mhotep Corporation

P.O. Box 43583

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The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under the regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. All contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

Thank you for your support!






Nnamdi Azikiwe






-Proclamation recognizes cultural icon-

Washington, DC –The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation announced today that DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has proclaimed August 25, 2008 ‘Henrietta Vinton Davis Day.’ The designation comes on the day the Foundation plans to unveil a marker at Miss Davis’ grave in National Harmony Park located in Landover, Maryland. The Foundation plans to host a memorial service at the grave site that day at 10:00 A.M.

The decree acknowledges Davis as the first African American to work at the DC Recorder of Deeds office beginning in 1878 before Frederick Douglas. The proclamation also recognizes Miss Davis’ significance as a cultural icon. She made her debut in her career as an actor, elocutionist, dramatic reader and impressionist in Washington, DC on April 25, 1883 where she was introduced by the then Recorder of Deeds, Frederick Douglas.

Furthermore, the proclamation 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.

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, as well as, Vice President of the Black Star Line. On the maiden voyage of the Black Star Line’s flagship vessel with a cargo worth upwards of $5.000.000 to the Caribbean, Davis was the ranking member of both the UNIA and the Black Star Line.

About The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation

Initially organized to raise funds merely to place a marker at the grave and to the legacy 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.

Proclamation for Henrietta Vinton Davis Day

Proclamation for Henrietta Vinton Dav

L.A. Scruggs, 1893.)

Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.

Quoted from

Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.

Production History

“Songs of the Lusitanian Bogey”–Peter Weiss
“Summer of the Seventh Doll”–Ray Lawler
“Kongi’s Harvest”–Wole Soyinka
“Daddy Goodness”–Richard Wright
Monday Playwright Series
+”One Last Look”–Steve Carter
+ “Ladies in Waiting”–Peter deAnda
+ “Two in a Trap”–Ted Shine
+ “Black Is..-We Are”-Workshop Project Continue reading

The New York Times March 31, 1895

THE SOCIAL WEEK IN MONTCLAIR; Successful Musical and Dramatic Entertainments for Charity.

March 31, 1895, Wednesday

Page 11, 409 words

MONTCLAIR, N.J., March 30. — A musical and dramatic entertainment was given in St. Mark’s Church Thursday evening by Miss Henrietta Vinton Davis, elocutionist; Mme. Anna Lee-Slade, soprano; Miss S. La Belle Anderson, contralto; Lamartine J. Brown, baritone; Henry N. Jackson, tenor, and Little Eva, the baby star.

Published: March 31, 1895
Copyright © The New York Times

The Old Invalid of Black Show Business

Foreword to Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts by Edward Mapp

To the unknowing, “Show business” can be an illusive invalid as well as a glamorous occupation. There was a time, however, when for the black performer, it was not too illusive nor was it an invalid. For many years, being in show business was fabulous and most times glamorous. It was fabulous in 1821 when the African Company, with John Hewlett as its star, presented the classics at Brown’s Theatre on Bleecker and Mercer Sts., in what was later to become Greenwich Village. The company was so successful that they graciously made a partition in the back of the house to accommodate the whites. It was fabulous when Ira Aldridge was world famous for his portrayals of Othello and the Moor in “Titus Andronicus”; when the black performer decided to make some of the big money being made by the minstrel shows that imitated him by imitating the imitators; and when the Lafayette Players sent two acting companies a season with such stars as Laura Bowman, Abbie Mitchell, Clarence Brooks, Frank Wilson, Rose McClendon and many others.

When Harlem had little theatre groups like the Allied Re players, the Rose McClendon Players, The American Negro Theatre, The Suitcase Theatre and various church groups — these groups were the proving grounds for Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Frederick O’Neal, Earle Hyman, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Alice Childress Continue reading


Historians study the past with its emphasis on personalities and events. Sometimes the great doers of past decades are remembered. More often, men and women of achievement, while important in their own times, are overlooked by historians. Such a person is Henrietta Vinton Davis who made a name for herself not only as a major elocutionist but as a leading exponent of Marcus Garvey’s “race first” concept.

Davis, who was born in 1860, was the daughter of Mansfield Vinton Davis, a talented musician, and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. As a young woman, she studied under Marguerite E. Saxon of Washington, D.C., Edwin Lawrence of New York City, and Rachel Noah of Boston, where she attended the Boston School of Oratory. During her late teens she taught school in Maryland and Louisiana. In 1878 she became the first black woman to be employed by the Office of the Recorder of the Deeds in the nation’s capital. It was in this capacity that she met Frederick Douglass who held the position of Recorder from 1881 to 1886.1 Continue reading

In All Her Glory: The Life and Times of Henrietta Vinton Davis

The Honorable Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis was a Shakespearean actor, elocutionist, dramatic reader, and public speaker. At a meeting of the Black Star Line Shipping Company on May 1, 1920 she was proclaimed by Marcus Garvey to be “the greatest woman of the Negro race” (sic). She is currently lying in an unmarked grave in National Harmony Memorial Park in Largo, Maryland.

L.A. Scruggs, 1893.)The Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation is committed to increasing the general public’s awareness and erecting a memorial to the life and legacy of the Honorable Henrietta Vinton Davis, Lady Commander of the Nile. In addition to raising funds for a memorial, we also intend to sponsor performances of a play entitled “Shero: The Livication of Henrietta Vinton Davis” written by Actorvist Clayton Lebouef, and publish her biography. Hopefully, after reading this brief synopsis of her life you too will be inspired to add your name to the list of those who consolidated their energies in sufficient degree to bestow a fitting memorial upon her. Nothing less is due a woman of her stature. Continue reading