Viola Davis has previously opened up about the extreme poverty she endured during her childhood, but the How to Get Away with Murder actress recently revealed even more heartbreaking details about her past.
Davis was born on her grandmother’s farm, a former slave plantation in South Carolina, but when her she and her five siblings moved with her parents to Rhode Island, they lived in buildings that were awaiting demolition. The living conditions were poor, and Davis recalled often being afraid of rats.
“128 Washington Street was infested with rats,” she said during her interview with Glamour magazine, explaining how she and her sister would huddle in bed horrified by the sounds of rats eating pigeons on the roof. In fact, to this day, the memory sometimes haunts her.
“When my sister and I have a nightmare, we say it was about 128,” she confessed.
When Davis’ parents’ welfare checks had been used up and the groceries were gone, there was no food at home, and she constantly battled hunger.
“It was like, if you don’t eat it now, it’ll be gone, and you’re going to be hungry for the next — Lord, who knows how long,” Davis recalled.
The Oscar-winning star even admits to rooting through garbage bins in search of something to eat, and at school, she struggled to concentrate and was unable to perform because of her overwhelming hunger.
“I was always so hungry and ashamed, I couldn’t tap into my potential. I couldn’t get at the business of being me,” she said.
Davis has made it her mission to speak out about her difficult past to highlight the plight of other hungry children, and ensure that they are being taken care of. She has helped raise more than $4.5 million for Hunger Is, a new campaign by the Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and she believes that no child should be going to school hungry.
“This is the richest country in the world,” she explained. “There’s no reason kids should be going to school hungry. Food is something that everyone should have. It just is.”