In addition to being "the premier actor of all nineteenth-century black performers on the dramatic stage," Henrietta Davis was proclaimed by Marcus Garvey to be the "greatest woman of the (African) race today".
She has come to be considered the physical, intellectual, and spiritual link between the Abolitionist movement of Frederick Douglass and the African Redemption Movement of the UNIA-ACL and Marcus Garvey.
Her performances consisted of a diverse spectrum of works from Paul Lawrence Dunbar's Negro dialects to such works as Romeo and Juliet, As you like it; "Mary Queen of Scots"; "Cleopatra's Dying Speech"; "The Battle" by Sciller; and "How Tom Sawyer Got His Fence Whitewashed" by Mark Twain. She is considered the first African American to have made an attempt at Shakesperian delineations after Ira Aldridge. On January 17, 1884, she appeared before a crowded house in Melodeon Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1893 she started her own company in Chicago, travelled to the Caribbean, and collaborated on writing Our Old Kentucky Home with distinguished journalist and future Garveyite John Edward Bruce.
While traveling in the Caribbean, Davis learned of the work of Marcus Garvey. On June 15, 1919, she was one of the guests who spoke a meeting of the UNIA held at the Palace Casino in Harlem, She did a rendition of "Little Brown Baby With Sparkling Eyes" by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. As part of her presentation she held an African-American doll, one of the earliest manufactured. Her prop had been loaned for the occasion by the Berry & Ross company. She decided to give up her career to work with Garvey and the UNIA-ACL, becoming the UNIA's first International Organizer, a director of the Black Star Line and the second Vice-President of the corporation.
At the UNIA-ACL convention in August 1920, she was one of the signatories of the The Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. Among the 54 declarations made in this document are resolutions that the colors red, black, and green are to be the symbolic colors of the African race and the term "nigger" cease being used. Furthermore, it demands that the word "Negro" be written with a capital "N".
On November 23, 1941, she died in Saint Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington, D.C., at the age of 81.