Broadway star Robert Hartwell buys 1820 house built by slaves: 'I've never been prouder to be a Black man'

"Don’t you ever underestimate a hardworking black man."

June 26, 2020, 10:30 AM

A Black Broadway star is sharing his pride after purchasing a home built by slaves.

"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,'" Robert Hartwell wrote on Instagram, alongside a photo of himself in front of the home. "We are building our own tables."

His new home was built in 1820, when slavery was still legal, for a family that owned the cotton mill in town, according to Hartwell, the founder of The Broadway Collective, a training program for young artists.

He told "Good Morning America" that he saw a photo of the 4,500-square foot home in a magazine, researched it and contacted the selling agent immediately. Less than two weeks later he closed on the home.

"We walked into that house and I was like, ‘Oh, I am home. This is it,'" he said. "I can’t say it enough, when you know you know."

Hartwell by chance sent his deposit for the home on Friday, June 19, Juneteenth, the day in 1865 that marked the effective end of slavery in the U.S.

He plans to use the home, located outside of New York City, as his primary residence, but plans first to embark on a renovation process that he hopes will bring him closer to his own roots.

"I as a Black American don’t really know past my great-grandfather," he said. "I’m hoping to learn more about the house and learn more about where I come from. It’s finding my roots and a renovation."

Hartwell said he is also exploring how to document the renovation process, calling the purchase of his home "a symbol of hope."

"It’s multi-layered for Black America," he said. "I think it’s like if he can, I can."

Hartwell's emotional announcement came as the nation both celebrates Pride month and is facing a cultural reckoning amid protests against racism across the country.

"It adds to the movement that we’re in right now because America needs to see what we can become and what we can be if you don’t kill us," Hartley said of his home purchase. "If you don’t kill us we can really make a difference. We can help generate the economy. We can help build more wealth in this country."

Hartwell ended his Instagram post by writing, "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."

He said he was blown away by the response to his post, and said he thinks the full circle moment of him now owning a home that was built in the time of slavery is a "piece of hope."

"I think, because of this time of such darkness and revelation, it’s a piece of hope for all of us to hold onto," he said. "It was something that I asked the universe for, in terms of if this does happen, we are on the road to better days."