Meet Viola Davis' Sisters! All About Dianne, Deloris, Anita and Danielle

Viola Davis has four sisters and one brother

<p>Gregory Pace/Shutterstock</p> Viola Davis with her sisters Dianne Davis-Wright and Deloris Davis Grant at the

Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

Viola Davis with her sisters Dianne Davis-Wright and Deloris Davis Grant at the 'A Touch Of Sugar' screening on April 25, 2019.

Viola Davis and her siblings had a tough childhood, but they’re writing their own happy endings.

Born on Aug. 11, 1965, Viola is the fifth of six children born to Mae Alice Davis and Dan Davis.

The couple, who wed as teenagers, welcomed their first child and only son, John Henry Davis, when Mae was just 15 years old. He was followed by Viola’s sisters Dianne Davis Wright, Deloris Davis Grant and Anita Davis. The pair’s youngest daughter, Danielle Eugina Davis, was born 12 years after Viola on April 21, 1977.

Though the Davis children experienced what Viola called “happy memories” of growing up on Sunday TODAY in 2019, their childhood was also filled with what she called “the darkness.”

The siblings’ early years were marred by extreme poverty and sexual abuse. They were also witness to violence, with Dan physically abusing Mae. (Dan died from pancreatic cancer in 2006, though Viola told PEOPLE he made peace with Mae before his death.)

The sisters turned to each other for strength. Viola wrote in her memoir: “We all needed one another. None of us could fight individually.”

And together, they persevered. “Me, my sister Deloris, my sister Dianne, a lot of my family members have broken generational curses because we dared to dream big,” the actress told Ancestry in 2023. “We dared to just dig in deep in the dirt and filth and trauma of our childhood and want better for our lives.”

Keep reading to find out more about Viola Davis' sisters Dianne, Deloris, Anita and Danielle and their relationships with each other.

They were born in South Carolina but raised in Rhode Island

<p>Viola Davis Instagram</p> Viola Davis and her family.

Viola Davis Instagram

Viola Davis and her family.

Viola opened up about her origins to Ancestry in 2023. “I came from Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, S.C.,” she said. “I was born in my grandmother’s sharecropper’s house.”

Though the family moved to Central Falls, R.I. when Viola was an infant, the family struggled financially. According to The Providence Journal, Mae worked as a maid while Dan was a horse groomer. “We lived in condemned buildings — apartments infested with rats,” Viola told Sunday TODAY in 2019.

They also struggled to fit into the Central Falls community they grew up in. As Deloris explained to Ancestry in 2023, “Viola and I and my sisters, we all struggled, because we were growing up in a community where there were no African Americans.”

Anita stood up to Viola’s bullies

Anita had Viola’s back when it came to neighborhood bullies. The How to Get Away with Murder actress recounted her reliance on her big sister for protection in her 2022 memoir, Finding Me. “If the situation was especially sticky, as backup I would call upon my big sister Anita,” she wrote. “She instilled fear in every boy, girl, woman, man and dog in Central Falls, Rhode Island.”

According to the Oscar winner, Anita even “grew her nails to be a better fighter.”

Viola shared Anita’s secret for “terrifying” her sister’s tormentors in a 2016 interview with Stephen Colbert, explaining, “She had this whole method where she would growl and drool." She added, “It really was very effective. I recommend it. ... Just drool with a little brick in your hand.”

Deloris encouraged Viola to act

<p>Christopher Polk/Getty</p> Julius Tennon, Deloris Grant, and Viola Davis attend XQ Super School Live on September 8, 2017 in Santa California.

Christopher Polk/Getty

Julius Tennon, Deloris Grant, and Viola Davis attend XQ Super School Live on September 8, 2017 in Santa California.

Viola revealed in a 2023 interview with Ancestry that she almost gave up on her dreams of becoming an actor at one point. According to the producer, she decided to pursue a career as a teacher in an effort to earn a more steady income. “I took a bunch of English courses and I was more depressed than I’d ever been in my life,” she said.

Her trajectory was altered by her older sister, who encouraged her to follow her heart and do what she loved. “It only changed when my sister Deloris said, ‘Viola, you said you always wanted to be an actor,’ ” the actress recalled. “I said, ‘How am I gonna be an actor?’ She was like, ‘I don’t know! I just know that you loved it. So, do it!' ”

Viola added: “As soon as I did that, the depression lifted.”

Deloris explained the rationale behind her guidance, saying, “Viola was never happy unless she was acting. What other advice would I have given her?”

Dianne went to Howard

<p>Viola Davis Instagram</p> Viola Davis and her sister Dianne.

Viola Davis Instagram

Viola Davis and her sister Dianne.

Dianne made a commitment to learning after being held back in the first grade. “At that moment, I became serious about education,” she said while accepting a TRIO Family Achievement Award from the Council for Opportunity in Education in September 2018.

The former U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, who worked as a civil servant for the unit’s civil rights division for 40 years before her retirement, said that she shared her newfound love of knowledge with her siblings. “Everything I learned at school, I brought it home for my sisters,” she said, joking, “I was the only one who could be the teacher or the principal.”

She spent two years at Rhode Island College before transferring to Howard University.

Danielle has a large family

<p>Viola Davis Instagram</p> Viola Davis' sisters Deloris and Danielle.

Viola Davis Instagram

Viola Davis' sisters Deloris and Danielle.

Viola’s younger sister, Danielle, is the most private of her siblings.

While not much is known about her, Viola revealed in a 2015 speech that Danielle is the mother of at least six children.

Davis also wished her baby sister a happy birthday on social media in 2023, writing, “I remember it like it was yesterday. You burst all of our hearts, lives wide open. Danielle.....YOU are the love of your life.....YOU are your gift! Love you my Nelly! Have the very best day.”

The sisters received an award for their educational pursuits

On Sept. 15, 2018, Dianne, Deloris, Anita, Viola and their mother Mae received the Council for Opportunity in Education’s first TRIO Family Award. This distinction honors the success of families who have participated in federal programs aimed at supporting achievement in higher education, such as Upward Bound and Student Support Services.

Maureen Hoyler, president and CEO of the Council, gave a statement about the decision, saying, “The success of the Davis sisters is a prime example of why federal support for education is an investment that strengthens families and communities. When one sibling enrolls in a program like Upward Bound and goes onto college, frequently younger brothers and sisters, and even parents, follow.”

Deloris teaches drama

<p>Frederick M. Brown/Getty</p> Viola Davis and her sister attend the second annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party on February 20, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.

Frederick M. Brown/Getty

Viola Davis and her sister attend the second annual Women In Film Pre-Oscar Cocktail Party on February 20, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.

Viola isn’t the only one with ties to acting in the Davis family. Her older sister Deloris, who won a skit contest with Viola as a child, grew up to become a drama and advanced English teacher.

According to The Providence Journal, Deloris received her Ph.D. in education from Rhode Island College before returning to Central Falls High School as an educator. “I like returning here every day,” she told the outlet. “I know the families. I get a sense of kinship with the community.”

She added: “I see myself in these children.”

Deloris previously opened up about the impact her little sister had on her classes in a 2012 interview with The Rhode Show. “She is the biggest inspiration for our students,” the teacher said. “Especially the students I have in my drama class, because they’re up on the stage where Viola Davis stood, where Viola Davis acted.”

As of 2022, Deloris had been with the school for 25 years.

Anita has multiple sclerosis

According to Diverse magazine, Anita returned to Rhode Island Community College several decades after being unenrolled.

She faced a unique set of challenges as a student: In addition to being the oldest person in her classes, she also has multiple sclerosis.

Viola bonded with Dianne and Deloris over a shared medical diagnosis

<p>WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy</p> Deloris Davis Grant and Viola Davis at XQ Super School Live on September 8, 2017.

WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy

Deloris Davis Grant and Viola Davis at XQ Super School Live on September 8, 2017.

Viola told PEOPLE in 2019 that a 2016 prediagnosis of diabetes brought her closer to Dianne and Deloris, both of whom have Type 2 diabetes. “It hit home for me,” she said. “My two sisters have Type 2 Diabetes, my great aunt had Type 2 Diabetes. (She) lost both of her legs and was in a wheelchair for decades, up until she finally succumbed to the disease. As did my grandmother on my father’s side.”

According to the performer, her family’s experiences with the disease inspired her to narrate the 2019 documentary A Touch of Sugar, which confronts America’s diabetes crisis. “[Diabetes] has affected [my sisters] in different ways, in terms of the symptoms they’ve had,” Viola said. “But the thing that’s even more important is that they’re managing it. They have tackled it. They’re not just watching it and sitting by.”

Deloris has traveled to more than 80 countries

While accepting her TRIO Family Achievement Award in September 2018, Deloris revealed that she is a world traveler.

“I wanted to be an archaeologist almost all of my life ... because I wanted to travel,” she said.

According to the teacher, her time working with TRIO’s federally funded Upward Bound program, which helps to prepare participants for college entry, furthered her desire to see the world, as it exposed her to people of many different backgrounds and cultures. “When I was in Upward Bound, I met so many people from around the world, Cambodia, Laos, China, from South America and I loved hearing their stories,” she said.

As a result, Deloris began to visit their lands. She shared: “Those stories inspired me to travel to probably more than 80 countries — at least I stopped counting after 80.”

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