Lady Vinton Davis Tells Los Angeles Children What African Redemption Means


By Ethel Trew Dunlap

Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis, International Organizer, delivered a brilliant farewell address to the members of the Los Angeles Division on December 27, in which she told in her usual graphic way of the struggles the Negro undergoes in his fight for complete independence. Miss Davis recited a conversation she had with a Mr. Michael, a California Jew, who drew a parallel of the Negro and the Jew both fighting for a restoration of their ancient homeland.

“It is indeed a pleasure to be with you again, said Miss Davis. “I am glad to have this opportunity, and I am proud that I was here last night. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the children here in their recitations, seeing them playing–how free they were in Liberty Hall. That is as it should be: they should have freedom to enjoy themselves. And I thought last night that as an organization you should set aside one night of each month and call it children’s night. Let them have a little time after the program. Of course it won’t always be Christmas; you won’t always have a Christmas tree; but you can make the children happy.

The Curse of Race Prejudice

“We all look back at the pleasant time that we had when we were children. And I throw out that suggestion tonight–one night in each month we should call children’s night.

“I was surprised there were not more people here last night. We should all be interested in the children they are our future hope; they are our future leaders. And we should train and do what we can toward the training of our children.

“Colored children have so much to make them unhappy. I know that from my experience. The time comes when they learn they belong to a race that is segregated, despised and jim-crowed for no other reason than that they are black; and it is a sad day for a colored child. So it behooves us to make our children as happy as we can. And I shall be glad indeed when we can found a nation in Africa where our children can grow up free and untrammeled from prejudice. That’s what I am working for and that is what every member of my race should work for, that our children can enjoy a greater freedom than we have ever been permitted to enjoy. And I think that all of us should become enthusiastic workers in the U.N.I.A. in the interest of the little ones.

Forced to Wander in Alien Lands

“When I saw this dear woman last night, when I saw how she got the children together and trained them, not only for the sake of the Negro children, but for the children of Los Angeles as well, I said: ‘She is a noble woman and I honor and love her, and I shall never forget her.’

“I am glad the dove of peace is hovering over Los Angeles. I shall feel better satisfied than if I had left last week. I feel that my mission has been fulfilled, that what Marcus Garvey sent me for has been done and my mission performed. I feel that I shall leave you all in harmony and peace, looking forward instead of backward, working hopefully for the improvement of the U.N.I.A.

“What a boon you have before you, the redemption of your fatherland. A gentleman called on me today–you know Mr. Michael. And he likened the condition of my people to the condition of his people. He said that the Jews had been forced to wander in alien lands just as the colored people are forced to wander in alien lands; that the Jews are a scattered people and that the colored people are likewise scattered–not because they want to be a scattered people, but because of the prejudice and hatred of other men. He called attention to the fact that the Jews for years had worked for the redemption of their land, Palestine, and that the Negroes were busy likewise redeeming Africa. And he expressed the belief that the time is not far distant when Palestine should be populated with its scattered sons and daughters, and that the Jew and Negro should be well side by side in love and harmony as in ancient times.

“What a beautiful thought, my friends. He did not suppose that I would come here tonight and tell it, but I must tell it, for it shows the beauty of his mind. And he said he would leave here tonight to trael in the interest of the U.N.I.A. The Jews have scattered their propaganda throughout the world, and they have had divisions in their ranks as we have had amongst our people. These divisions exist; we cannot escape; but we must learn to bear them, to grasp the situation, learn to become victorious over them, and by overcoming them we shall only become the stronger.

“As I listened to Rev. Matthews I said: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. Although he knows me, I do not know him: it is so with thousands of people throughout the world wherever I go. I have all my life been a busy woman, and just as he says, I go to my home, stay there maybe half an hour, and I am gone again. I cannot enjoy the quietude of my own home, but I have chosen to wander for the benefit of my race. I am not compelled to do it from circumstances. I would not need to do it, for all my life I have been so busy that I could afford to go home and sit down and read the newspapers about the current events; but I cannot see my people suffer without doing my best to alleviate their suffering. And if I die trying to alleviate their suffering I shall feel that I have not died in vain. Because I could have it comfortable by my own fireside is no reason why I should not feel the suffering of my sisters and brothers in the South, in the East and in the Western part of this country, in the West Indies, in Central and South America and in Africa.

“I feel their troubles because I am identified with my race. I know my people  in Alabama, in Mississippi, in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Oklahoma. I know them in the country, on the farms and the plantations, because I have lived with them on those farms and plantations. I know them in the beautiful islands of the West Indies; I know just what they suffer there–a little different from what we suffer here, but they are suffering just the same. And those suffering are crying to high heaven. I known them in Ecuador, Peru, British Guiana, French and Dutch Guiana, and I sympathize with them in their struggles.

“Memories crowd my mind as I think of the many deeds of cruelty that I have seen in my travels against my people. And if you could have seen what I have seen, if you could have felt what I have felt, you , too, would take up the cause for your race; you too would be as I, ready to cross the continent at any time, at any hour, for the sake of your race. But words fail to describe some things; they have to be seen and felt to be really understood.

“However, in this, my farewell speech to you, I leave my blessing with you and trust that from this time forth you will go on in the bonds of love and unity, and that you will cast aside all things that are detrimental to your growth. You should look forward to buying this property. You can do this by adopting a practical program. You have about a hundred members, I believe. You can double up the number in a month if everybody will go out and get one member. Don’t try to get everybody, but try to get just one, and try to convince them that this society is the only salvation of the Negro; that it is the only organization which solves the Negro problem. It will be no problem to Negroes if they will fall into this movement. We have been a problem to ourselves, because sometimes we have misrepresented ourselves. As our friend has said, this is a crazy city. I don’t want to take the impression from him that all the Negroes here are crazy, but I have known two or three that were crazy. And they re not only undesirable citizens, but they should be loked up; but they are not members of this division of the U.N.I.A.” (Laughter.)  “No, they are not members–and they show their insanity by not being members.” (Laughter.) This is their first trace of insanity. They are not members, or they have been members and deserted the cause.

“The Los Angeles division has been tried as by fire and it has come out as pure gold. So see that you do not tarnish that gold, that that gold becomes brighter and brighter, and that when Garvey comes here that gold shall dazzle the eyesight. But you have to keep it shiny, otherwise it will grow dull like everything else does. But I think by mapping out a program and keeping busy you will so outline your couse of actions the coming year that by the end of 1923 you will make a splendid record. And I hope before the end of next year I may be privileged to come to you again.

“You have plenty of friends who are waiting to see what you are going to do to join you. They want to see if you are free of past nonsense. They feel life is too short to fritter away in foolish things; but to gain our goal we must do it by hard work, by steady work.

“Speaking of the children again, someone expressed the hope that we would have schools in Liberia. I want to say a number of years ago Rev.___________ established a college in Liberia. We are going to enlarge that college and put it on a footing with any other college in the world. That is another thing we have to look forward to–the development of the Liberian College. A part of this Liberian Construction Loan is to be used for the higher educational development of youths in Africa.

“I suppose you all read Prof. Picken’s article in The Negro World. He is a scholar, a man of experience, and when he speaks he says something. And when he writes he gives you something to remember. I read it at one sitting. I would not let anything come between me and my article. For Brother Pickens has answered our enemies: he has given them a knockout blow in the solar plexus so they can’t come back at all. So read that article. He has told us it is the greatest organization in the world. Yet he is a professor of the N.A.A.C.P. But he is not afraid of losing his job. He comes down to Liberty Hall whenever he feels like it. And we ask him to speak and he expresses his sentiments. Sometimes he just likes to steal in and listen to Marcus Garvey, for he thinks, as we think, that Marcus Garvey is the most remarkable person living today. It is something to hear him, and it is more to know him. And to know him is to respect and revere him. I received a telegram from him today, and I think so much of it I am just carrying it around, because in it he wished me a merry Christmas and a happy new year. In it he told me to be in Chicago on the ninth of January and to be in New York city on the eleventh of January. And by the help of God I am going to be there. And although it means I have to speak to a large audience that night and have to leave immediately for New York, yet I don’t mind it.. I am glad to have the opportunity to do as my chieftain bids me. I shall possibly leave your city tomorrow afternoon or tonight, and I am asking you to do your best–for Marcus Garvey expects you to do it–towards giving a splendid collection.

“I am not a beggar–I never begged until I came to the U.N.I.A. It sort of gets me, you know, to do it. But I am begging for your race, and I am ready to go to the uttermost parts of the world in my efforts for their behalf. I have been doing this for four years now, doing without sleep, getting into large cities in the early morning hours, with no one to meet me. And the thought of doing something for my race has warmed my heart and has made me not feel weary, has made me go on. So I am asking you now to come forward and give me your Christmas offering. Kindness has been shown me while here, and it shall not be forgotten. I have been comfortably located while here and I thankyou; but I am on my way now, so help me on. You know you used to sing, ‘Help the weary traveler on the lonesome road.’ So I shall be the weary traveler on the lonesome road, but I shall be thinking of you with thoughts of love and hope.”

Hilton R. Jordon to Professor William Seraile


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.

601 South Harvard Boulevard
Los Angeles, California
January 28, 1981

Pro. William Seraile
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.

P.S.
If you have a picture of Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis I will be happy to have one you could spare.

Sincerely yours,

Hilton R. Jordan

L.A. Scruggs, 1893.)