Viola Davis beautifully explains why she has bought a former slave plantation

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Kayleigh Dray
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Viola Davis beautifully explains why she has bought a former slave plantation

“It is the birthplace of my story,” says Viola Davis.

Viola Davis – as fans of the critically-acclaimed actor and human rights activist will no doubt already be aware – was born at her grandmother’s farm, which sits on the former Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina.

“I read one slave narrative of someone who was on that plantation which was horrific,” she previously explained during an episode of The Jess Cagle Interview.

“160 acres of land, and my grandfather was a sharecropper. Most of my uncles and cousins, they’re farmers. That’s the choice that they had.”

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Despite the farm’s dark history, though, Davis said that she and her family viewed the “one room shack” as a place of joy.

“My mom says that the day I was born, all of my aunts and uncles were in the house, she said, everyone was drinking and laughing, and having fun,” she shared.

“I love that story… it’s a great story of celebration in the midst of what you would feel is a decimated environment, but you could see the joy and the life that can come out of that, because it’s not always about things, you know.”

Viola Davis
Viola Davis: “‘May you live long enough to know why you were born.’”

Now, in a bid to continue her command over her own narrative, Davis has purchased the former plantation as a gift to herself on her 55th birthday.

Sharing a photo of the structure where her mother delivered her to Instagram, the How To Get Away With Murder actor wrote: “The above is the house where I was born 11 August 1965. It is the birthplace of my story.

“Today on my 55th year of life… I own it… all of it.”

Family and connection has always been incredibly important to Davis, of course. Indeed, the actor recently told Vanity Fair that she credits her mother, Mae Alice, and her sisters Deloris, Diane, and Anita, with lifting her out of what she calls “the hole.”

“When I was younger,” she said, “I did not exert my voice because I did not feel worthy of having a voice. [But they] looked at me and said I was pretty.”

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Davis, who will portray Michelle Obama in Showtime’s upcoming series First Ladies, which is being produced by JuVee Productions (the company run by Davis and her husband), continued: “Who’s telling a dark-skinned girl that she’s pretty? Nobody says it. The dark-skinned Black woman’s voice is so steeped in slavery and our history. If we did speak up, it would cost us our lives. 

“Somewhere in my cellular memory was still that feeling that I do not have the right to speak up about how I’m being treated, that somehow I deserve it.”

“I did not find my worth on my own,” she added.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.