The Lady Vanishes: Meet Henrietta Vinton Davis-one of the most amazing women you’ve probably never heard of | Baltimore City Paper


This article tells the journey of three men: their discovery of “The Shero of Our Story,” the lack of a marker on her grave, and the founding of the Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation to rectify that historical oversight.

The Lady Vanishes: Meet Henrietta Vinton Davis-one of the most amazing women you’ve probably never heard of | Baltimore City Paper.

Livication Marker Unveiling 2013


PRESS RELEASE

07/10/2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information:
Vaunita Goodman (202) 291-1663
email: shero1860@facebook.com
blog
: https://henriettavintondavis.wordpress.com
#Livication

JULY 20, 2013 is HENRIETTA VINTON DAVIS GRAVE MARKER UNVEILING

-Events to recognize cultural icon-

Washington, DC –Today the Henrietta Vinton Davis Memorial Foundation (HVDMF) announced plans to unveil a marker at the grave of its namesake in National Harmony Memorial Park. 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 Seraile 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. Her home in Northeast Washington, DC has been listed on Cultural Tourism DC’s African American Heritage Trail since 1999.

On Saturday July 20, 2013 the HVDMF starts the day off with an award presentation and celebration at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, culminating with the unveiling of a marker at Miss Davis’ grave site at National Harmony Memorial Park. Guest speakers and celebrants include:

Dr. William Seraile (Bruce Grit), Barbara Eklof (For Every Season), Kevin Grace (Friends of Joe Gans), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Vinton Davis Weblog) and Mwariama Kamau (UNIA). Producing partners for the occasion are Vaunita Goodman (MTPC) and Michon Boston (Iola’s Letter). Clayton LeBouef (Something The Lord Made, The Wire, Homicide) will serve as Master of Ceremonies.

In 2008, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty issued a proclamation designating August 25 ‘Henrietta Vinton Davis Day.’ The decree acknowledged Davis as the first African American to work at the DC Recorder of Deeds office beginning in 1878, before Frederick Douglass was appointed Recorder. She made her career debut as a Shakespearean actor, elocutionist and dramatic reader in Washington, DC on April 25, 1883 where she was introduced by Douglass, a family friend. The proclamation acknowledges the success of Miss Davis as a public speaker and cultural icon.

Celebration / Award Presentation recognizing Vera J. Katz, (Professor Emerita Howard University Theatre Arts) and others will be conducted in the A-5 Auditorium 11am-1:30-pm at the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Library 901 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (202)  727-0321

Livication / Henrietta Vinton Davis Marker Unveiling will be conducted 3pm-5pm at her grave site in National Harmony Memorial Park 7101 Sheriff Road Largo, MD (301) 772-0900

Events are free and open to the public.

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. Her commitment to her craft gained her recognition as the first African American “woman of the stage.”

During 1919, a year notable for its “Red Summer,” she joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League headed by Marcus Garvey.

As a leader of the African Redemption Movement, 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 for 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 publishing books, producing plays, films/videos and conducting symposiums educating the general public about her life and the times in which she lived.

* *

A scene from the play Christophe by William Edgar Easton

Proclamation for Henrietta Vinton Davis Day

Women’s History Month exhibit honors Lady Henrietta Vinton Davis


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.

Henrietta Vinton Davis Day Proclaimed in Baltimore


Designating August 25, 2009 "He"nrietta Vinton Davis Day in BaltimoreMayor Sheila Dixon has proclaimed August 25, 2009 as “Henrietta Vinton Davis Day” in Baltimore.

Livication 2009


PRESS RELEASE

4/9/2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

Nnamdi Azikiwe

202-483-6097

email: info@ladydavis.org

website: http://www.ladydavis.org

blog: http://henriettavintondavis.blogspot.com

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.

A scene from the play Christophe by William Edgar Easton

A scene from the play Christophe by William Edgar Easton

Proclamation for Henrietta Vinton Davis Day

Proclamation for Henrietta Vinton Davis Day

Who Will Revere the Black Woman? WE must revere the Black Woman!!!


Who Will Revere the Black Woman? *

Abbey Lincoln

Mark Twain said, in effect, that when a country enslaves a people, the first necessary job is to make the world feel that the people to be enslaved are subhuman. The next job is to make his fellow countrymen believe that man is inferior, and, then, the unkindest cut of all is to make that man believe himself inferior.

A good job has been done on the Black people in this country, as far as convincing them of their inferiority is concerned. The general white community has told us in a million different ways and in no uncertain terms that “God” and “nature” made a mistake when it came to the fashioning of us and ours. The whole society, having been thoroughly convinced of the stained, threatening, and evil nature of anything unfortunate enough to be, or to be referred to as, black, as an intended matter of courtesy refers to those of African extraction as “colored” or “Negro.”

The fact that “Negro” is the Spanish word for “black” is hardly understood, it would seem; or it would seem that the word “black” may be intimated or suggested, but never simply stated in good English.

Too many Negroes, if described or referred to as “black,” take it as an affront; and I was once told by a Canadian Irishman that I’d insulted him by referring to my person as a Black woman. He insisted that, in actuality, I was brown, not black; and I felt obliged to tell him he described himself as “white,” and that he wasn’t white either.

The fact that white people readily and proudly call themselves “white,” glorify all that is white, and whitewash all that is glorified, becomes unnatural and bigoted in its intent only when these same whites deny persons of African heritage who are Black the natural and inalienable right to readily and proudly call themselves “black,” glorify all that is black, and blackwash all that is glorified.

Yet, one is forced to conclude that this is not the case at all, that an astonishing proportion of the white population finds it discomforting that Blacks should dare to feel so much glory in being beautifully black. In the face of this kind of “reasoning,” the only conclusion one can logically come to is that there is something wrong with this society and its leadership. “The Man’s” opinion of God is sorry, to put it nicely, and his opinion of himself is simply vague and hazy.

Consider: Swearing his love and devotion to the Omnipotent One on the one hand, yet defying and cursing him with rank impudence on the other; using the crutch of his “inherently” base and callow nature on the one hand, and claiming his godhood on the other; worshipping a Jew as the Son of God on the one hand, yet persecuting all other Jews as enemies of God on the other; historically placing this same Jew on the African continent on the one hand, and describing him as a European in physical appearance on the other (still, one would suppose that it’s tacitly understood by all that “God” couldn’t be anything other than “white,” no matter where He was born); advocating that the Black man is made of inferior stuff on the one hand, yet defying him not to prove his superiority on the other; naming hurricanes for women on the one hand, yet H is for the heart as pure as gold on the other; giving her pet names such as “whore,” “slut,” “bitch,” etc., on the one hand, yet, put them all together and they spell mother, the word “that means the world to me,” on the other.

No wonder the slogan “white is right” could take a whole nation by storm. One could never accuse this society of being rational.

Still, instead of this irrational society warping my delicate little psyche, it only drove me, ultimately, to the conclusion that any Black human being able to survive the horrendous and evil circumstances in which one inevitably finds oneself trapped must be some kind of a giant with great and peculiar abilities, with an armor as resistant as steel yet made of purest gold. My mother is one of the most courageous people I have ever known, with an uncanny will to survive. When she was a young woman, the white folks were much further in the lead than they are now, and their racist rules gave her every disadvantage; yet, she proved herself a queen among women, any women, and as a result will always be one of the great legends for me.

But strange as it is, I’ve heard it echoed by too many Black full-grown males that Black womanhood is the downfall of the Black man in that she (the Black woman) is “evil,” “hard to get along with,” “domineering” “suspicious,” and “narrow-minded.” In short, a black, ugly, evil you-know what.

As time progresses I’ve learned that this description of my mothers, sisters, and partners in crime is used as the basis for the further shoving, by the Black man of his own head into the sand of oblivion. Hence, the Black mother, housewife, and all-round girl Thursday is called upon to suffer both physically and emotionally every, humiliation a woman can suffer and still function.

Her head is more regularly beaten than any other woman’s, and by her own man; she’s the scapegoat for Mr. Charlie; she is forced to stark realism and chided if caught dreaming; her aspirations for her and hers are, for sanity’s sake, stunted; her physical image has been criminally maligned, assaulted, and negated; she’s the first to be called ugly and never yet beautiful, and as a consequence is forced to see her man (an exact copy of her, emotionally and physically), brainwashed and wallowing in self-loathing, pick for his own the physical antithesis of her (the white woman and incubator of his heretofore arch enemy the white man). Then, to add guilt to insult and injury, she (the Black woman) stands accused as the emasculator of the only thing she has ever cared for, her Black man. She is the scapegoat for what white America has made of the “Negro personality.”

Raped and denied the right to cry out in her pain she- has been named the culprit and called “loose,” “hotblooded,” “wanton,” “sultry,” and “amoral.” She has been used as the white man’s sexual outhouse, and shamefully encouraged by her own ego-less man to persist in this function. Wanting, too, to be carried away by her “Prince Charming,” she must, in all honesty, admit that he has been robbed of his crown by the very assaulter and assassin who has raped her. Still, she looks upon her man as God’s gift to Black womanhood and is further diminished and humiliated and outraged when the feeling is not mutual.

When a white man “likes colored girls,” his woman (the white woman) is the last one he wants to know about it. Yet, seemingly, when a Negro “likes white girls,” his woman (the Black woman) is the first he wants to know about it. White female rejects and social misfits are flagrantly flaunted in our faces as the ultimate in feminine pulchritude. Our women are encouraged by our own men to strive to look and act as much like the white female image as possible, and only those who approach that “goal” in physical appearance and social behavior are acceptable. At best, we are made to feel that we are poor imitations and excuses for white women.

Evil? Evil, you say? The Black woman is hurt, confused, frustrated, angry, resentful, frightened and evil! Who in this hell dares suggest that she should be otherwise? These attitudes only point up her perception of the situation and her healthy rejection of same.

Maybe if our women get evil enough and angry enough, they’ll be moved to some action that will bring our men to their senses. There is one unalterable fact that too many of our men cannot seem to face. And that is, we “black, evil, ugly” women are a perfect and accurate reflection of you “black, evil, ugly” men. Play hide and seek as long as you can and will, but your every rejection and abandonment of us is only a sorry testament of how thoroughly and carefully you have been blinded and brainwashed. And let it further be understood that when we refer to you we mean, ultimately, us. For you are us, and vice versa.

We are the women who were kidnapped and brought to this continent as slaves. We are the women who were raped, are still being raped, and our bastard children snatched from our breasts and scattered to the winds to be lynched, castrated, de-egoed, robbed, burned, and deceived.

We are the women whose strong and beautiful Black bodies were—and are—still being used as a cheap labor force for Miss Anne’s kitchen and Mr. Charlie’s bed, whose rich, black, and warm milk nurtured—and still nurtures—the heir to the racist and evil slavemaster.

We are the women who dwell in the hell-hole ghettos all over the land. We are the women whose bodies are sacrificed, as living cadavers, to experimental surgery in the white man’s hospitals for the sake of white medicine. We are the women who are invisible on the television and movie screens, on the Broadway stage.  We are the women who are lusted after, sneered at, leered at, hissed at, yelled at, grabbed at, tracked down by white degenerates in our own pitiable, poverty-stricken, and prideless neighborhoods.

We are the women whose hair is compulsively fried, whose skin is bleached, whose nose is “too big,” whose mouth is “too big and loud,” whose behind is “too big and broad,” whose feet are “too big and flat,” whose face is “too black and shiny,” and whose suffering and patience is too long and enduring to be believed.

Who’re just too damned much for everybody.

We are the women whose bars and recreation halls are invaded by flagrantly disrespectful, bigoted, simpering, amoral, emotionally unstable, outcast, maladjusted, nymphomaniacal, condescending white women . . .in desperate and untiring search of the “frothing-at-the-mouth-for-a white-woman, strongbacked, sixty-minute hot black.” Our men.

We are the women who, upon protesting this invasion of our privacy and sanctity and sanity, are called “jealous,” and “evil,” and “small-minded,” and “prejudiced.” We are the women whose husbands and fathers and brothers and sons have been plagiarized, imitated, denied, and robbed of the fruits of their genius, and who consequently we see emasculated, jailed, lynched, driven mad, deprived, enraged, and made suicidal. We are the women whom nobody, seemingly, cares about, who are made to feel inadequate, stupid and backward, and who inevitably have the most colossal inferiority complexes to be found.

And who is spreading the propaganda that “the only free people in this country are the white man and the Black woman?” If this be freedom, then Heaven is Hell.

Who will revere the Black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for Black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protection, and keeping, and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?

*Reprinted from Negro Digest, September 1966.

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