Viola Davis Childhood Home Instagram Post

Viola Davis celebrated her 55th birthday on Aug. 11, and to commemorate the milestone, she shared a photo of the home she was born in on Instagram. But there’s an even more powerful meaning behind the photo—it’s a message of how she’s fully claimed the story of her birthplace as part of her narrative.

The house was a one-room shack located on a former slave plantation called Singleton Plantation in South Carolina, where, according to People, her grandfather was a sharecropper. Davis wrote in the caption that she was born in the house on Aug. 11, 1965. “It is the birthplace of my story. Today on my 55th year of life….I own it….all of it.” At the bottom, she included a Cherokee birth blessing: “May you live long enough to know why you were born.”

Some of Davis’s fans thought “I own it….all of it” in the caption meant she actually purchased the plantation, but Davis clarified shortly after that she does not physically “own” the house, but rather the story that shaped her into who she is today.

And her reclaiming of that history is even more moving when you hear more about it. In the 2016 interview with Jess Cagle, editorial director of People and Entertainment Weekly, Davis explained that the home had “no running water. No bathroom. It’s just an outhouse.” Though she wasn’t there long—her family moved houses after she, the fifth child, was born—the home left a lasting impression on her. “I have a picture of it on my phone because I think it’s a beautiful picture,” she said of the image she posted on Instagram.

“I went back to visit briefly but still not aware of the history,” she told Cagle. “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.”

“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,” Davis said in 2016. “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.”

Let Davis’s story be proof that owning your story is just as—if not more—powerful than owning a physical thing.

Olivia Harvey


Olivia Harvey is a freelance writer and award-winning scriptwriter from outside Boston, Massachusetts. She’s a big fan of scented candles, getting dressed up, and the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. You can make sure she’s doing okay via Instagram and/or Twitter.

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