South O’ the Highway

Actor Robert Hartwell Buys House Built by Slaves to “Fill with Love”

The actor hopes to make a difference.

Actor Robert Hartwell, who grew up in East Hampton and has appeared in Broadway shows such as Memphis: The Musical, Cinderella and Hello, Dolly! took to Instagram to detail the empowering journey he embarked on to buy a house that was built by slaves in the early 1800s.

 

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3 weeks ago I found this house online. I said “this is my house”. I called the seller and was told it was a cash only offer and that “I’m sure that takes you off the table”. Don’t you ever underestimate a hard working black man. I saw the house last week and when I walked in I knew I was home. The house was built in 1820 for the Russell family who owned the cotton mill in town. Slavery was still legal. When the agent asked me why I wanted such a large house I said it was “a generational move”. I know this house is bigger than me. I wish I could’ve told my ancestors when they were breaking their backs in 1820 to build this house that 200 years later a free gay black man was going to own it and fill it with love and find a way to say their name even when 200 years later they still thought I would be “off the table”. We are building our own tables. I’ve never been prouder to be a black man. Come to my White House any time. I can’t wait to have you! Glory to God in the highest. I’m a homeowner.

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“Don’t you ever underestimate a hard working black man,” Hartwell wrote. “3 weeks ago I found this house online. I said ‘this is my house.’ I called the seller and was told it was a cash only offer and that ‘I’m sure that takes you off the table.’ I saw the house last week and when I walked in I knew I was home. The house was built in 1820 for the Russell family who owned the cotton mill in town. Slavery was still legal. When the agent asked me why I wanted such a large house I said it was ‘a generational move.’ I know this house is bigger than me. I wish I could’ve told my ancestors when they were breaking their backs in 1820 to build this house that 200 years later a free gay black man was going to own it and fill it with love and find a way to say their name even when 200 years later they still thought I would be ‘off the table.’ We are building our own tables. I’ve never been prouder to be a black man. Come to my White House any time. I can’t wait to have you! Glory to God in the highest. I’m a homeowner.”

 

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There are images from your childhood you’ll never forget. The summer before I entered high school I had a job in a wig store (yes lol happy pride saints). At the end of my shift my mom came in jingling keys in the air. They were HER keys to HER new house. As a single mom you do EVERYTHING for your kids first. I saw her constantly go without so that my brother and I could always have. To see her HAVE was a face and spirit of joy that I never want to leave my memory. I will never forget tossing those keys in the air after the closing on Wednesday. I look forward to my kids tossing them to theirs and theirs and theirs. Someone asked why did I have to mention in the story that I was gay. Their very asking is the reason why. Representation matters. As we celebrate Pride we are making a commitment as a community to not hide and to fight even more valiantly for our trans brothers and sisters who are fighting to stay alive. We’re here and we will fight, celebrate, and always show up for the most vulnerable among us. Happy Pride and all my love xx

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