Viola Davis is living proof that you can change your circumstances. The How to Get Away With Murder star just revealed she has given herself a truly profound 55th birthday: owning her story. Davis made that much clear by sharing an inspiring message about the former slave plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina, upon which her grandfather was a sharecropper — and which she once described as having a “horrific” history.
Davis took to Instagram on her birthday Tuesday to share her life-affirming revelation with fans. “The above is the house where I was born August 11, 1965,” she captioned a photo of a small, seemingly dilapidated home. “It is the birthplace of my story. Today on my 55th year of life… I own it… all of it.” Davis then added a Cherokee birth blessing: “May you live long enough to know why you were born.”
Understandably, many assumed from her caption that Davis had purchased the property. However, she clarified in the comments that her message didn’t pertain to an actual real estate transaction, explaining, “I do not ‘own’ above house, I ‘own’ my STORY!! Too abstract I guess.” And while it would certainly have been an incredible turn if Davis did buy the plantation, the fact that she’s owning her entire story — even the traumatic parts — is just as inspiring.
The home where Davis’ story began is situated on Singleton Plantation which, according to the website South Carolina Plantations, dates back to 1880.
In 2016, she shared her history with the property during an interview with People’s former editorial director Jess Cagle. “I wasn’t on it long, because I was the fifth child, and so we moved soon after I was born,” she said. “I mean, I went back to visit briefly but still not aware of the history. I think I read one slave narrative of someone who was on that plantation which was horrific. 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.”
But Davis’ perception of that place isn’t all bad. “My grandmother’s house was a one-room shack. I have a picture of it on my phone because I think it’s a beautiful picture,” she elaborated, adding, “[There was] no running water. No bathroom. It’s just an outhouse. But my mom says that the day I was born, all of my aunts and uncles were in the house, she said everyone was eating and drinking and laughing, and having fun. She said she ate a sardine, mustard, onion, tomato sandwich after I was born.”
And Davis loves that story, much for the same reason her 55th birthday inspired her to reflect on the ownership of her past. “It’s a great story to me,” she told Cagle. “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.”
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