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On this date in 1860, we remember Henrietta Vinton Davis. She was a Black actress and an international leader of the Garvey movement.
Born in Baltimore in 1860, to Mansfield and Ann Johnson Davis, she taught school in Maryland and Louisiana, and in 1878 became the first Black woman employed at the Office of the Recorder of Deeds in Washington D.C., where she worked as an assistant to Frederick Douglass. Davis’ dramatic career began in 1883, and over the next decade, she traveled widely as an elocutionist, attracting large audiences with her work by Paul Dunbar, Shakespeare, and others.
She started her own company in Chicago in 1893, traveling to the Caribbean, and collaborated on writing "Our Old Kentucky Home." Her connections in Jamaica and her friendship with Marcus Garvey attracted her to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA-ACL) in 1918.
In 1920, she formed the Black Cross Nurses Association, an auxiliary with UNIA-ACL. Her experience as an actress was an effective communication vehicle with the ideals of the Garvey movement, though she became disillusioned with its mission later on. Henrietta Vinton Davis died November 23, 1941.
Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York