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Viola Davis says she didn't buy plantation where she was born, sets record straight

On the one hand, she owns it. On the other, she does not.
/ Source: TODAY

Viola Davis would like to clarify something about her ancestral home. Namely, that she does not actually own it.

The Oscar-, Tony- and Emmy-winning actor posted an Instagram on Tuesday of a small home in St. Matthews, South Carolina.

"The above is the house where I was born August 11, 1965," she wrote in the caption. "It is the birthplace of my story. Today on my 55th year of life....I own it....all of it."

The "How to Get Away with Murder" star then added the quote, "'May you live long enough to know why you were born.' Cherokee Birth Blessing"

But her fans, and many news outlets, interpreted the comments a little more literally than she had intended. On the one hand, it definitely was the house where she grew up. But she had not purchased it.

Later in the post's comments, she wrote, "I do not 'own' above house, I 'own' my STORY!! Too abstract I guess."

Viola Davis at the premiere of "Troop Zero" in Los Angeles in January.
Viola Davis at the premiere of "Troop Zero" in Los Angeles in January. Getty Images

The house was part of the Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina, and her grandfather was a sharecropper, according to an interview she gave to People magazine and Entertainment Weekly back in 2016.

"I wasn’t on it long, because I was the fifth child, and so we moved soon after I was born," she explained. "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. One-hundred and sixty acres of land, and my grandfather was a sharecropper.... 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 added that her relatives also lived very close-to-the-bone.

"(There was) no running water. No bathroom," she said. "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 drinking and laughing, and having fun. She said she ate a sardine, mustard, onion, tomato sandwich after I was born."

After leaving South Carolina, Davis went on to study theater at Rhode Island College, then attended Juilliard School of Performing Arts in New York City. She's now married to Julius Tennon, and the pair own the production company JuVee Productions. Time magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2017.

Back in 2016, she was already comfortable with her family's modest beginnings.

"It's a great story to me," she said. "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."

And she owns that.