TRAILBLAZER THURSDAY: Viola Davis
by Anna Morais
Rhode Island may often be overlooked or forgotten due to its small size, but the state has been home to many notable women. Central Falls native, Viola Davis, is regarded as one of the best actresses of her generation. Davis was the first black woman to be nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one, and the only black actress to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting (an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony).
Viola Davis was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina in 1965, but she was raised in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Her mother was a devout social activist, and at age two Viola was taken to jail with her mother who was arrested at a Civil Rights protest. Viola Davis stated that during her childhood she "lived in abject poverty and dysfunction in rat-infested and condemned apartments."
Davis attended and graduated from Central Falls High School where she was heavily involved with the drama club. To this day she credits the Central Falls High School Drama Club as the reason she developed a love for acting. After graduating from high school, Davis attended Rhode Island College where she received her bachelor’s degree in theatre. Davis then went on to receive her graduate diploma from The Juilliard School.
After graduating from Juilliard, Davis appeared on Broadway. In 2001, Davis won a Tony Award, and a Drama Desk Award for her role as Tonya in King Hedley II. She then went on to appear in several films and television series, including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Traveler, and Century City.
Today Davis is best known for her roles in Doubt, The Help, and How to Get Away with Murder. She has received numerous awards and acclamations for her work. When prompted to speak about her role in The Help Davis stated "I feel like I brought my mom to life; I've channeled her spirit. I channeled the spirit of my grandmother, and I've kind of paid homage to how they've contributed to my life and the lives of so many people." Almost every role Viola Davis plays easily resonates with a large percentage of viewers. It is for this reason she is held in such high regard in her field.
Though Davis is an incredibly successful woman, she still stays true to her roots. Davis has yet to forget where she came from. In 2011, when Central Falls city funding was low, Davis donated money to the public library to prevent it from closing. In 2016, she partnered with the Vaseline Healing Project which sponsored the construction of a community health care center in Central Falls. The Vaseline Healing Project aims to deliver dermatological care to those affected by poverty around the world. In 2018, Davis donated funds to the Central Falls High School theatre program.
Davis has also been involved with ‘Hunger Is’ since 2014. ‘Hunger Is’ aims to help eradicate childhood hunger across America. When prompted to talk about their campaign Davis stated, "seventeen million kids in this country, so one in five kids in this country, go to bed hungry. I was one of those kids, because I grew up in abject poverty; I did everything that you could possibly imagine to get food: I rummaged in the garbage cans, I stole from the local store constantly."
Over the course of her career, Viola Davis has made history in more ways than one. She has helped change the city of Central Falls for the better, and shown people worldwide it does not matter where you come from, but what you make of yourself. During an interview Davis stated “I consider myself a hero. I don't have a cape, I don't have a golden lasso. I had a call to adventure, a call to live life bigger than myself. I found the elixir.” This trailblazer doubles as a superhero, and by now you should know KSA’s stance on superheroes...