Anita Florence Hemmings

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Anita Florence Hemmings
Anita Florence Hemmings.png
Born(1872-06-08)June 8, 1872
Died1960 (aged 87–88)
Alma materVassar College
Andrew Love (m. 1903)

Anita Florence Hemmings (June 8, 1872 – 1960) was the first African-American woman to graduate from Vassar College. After graduation she become a librarian at the Boston Public Library. Her parents were Dora Logan and Robert Williamson Hemmings. Her brother graduated from M.I.T. in 1897.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Hemmings was born in 1872 to Dora Logan and Robert Williamson Hemmings. She was a Protestant Episcopalian. She married Dr. Andrew Love in 1903 and had three children, Ellen, Barbara, and Andrew Jr.

Like some Black Americans at the time, Hemmings and her husband passed as white for socioeconomic benefit. They did not inform their children of their racial heritage.[2][3][4]



Anita Hemmings attended preparation school at Girls' High School in Boston and Northfield Seminary. She matriculated from Vassar. The school was not aware of her race until her graduation. She graduated A.B. (Vassar College) in 1897. Later, rumors circulated that she should have been valedictorian, but they were false. Some considered Anita the most attractive woman in her class; it was whispered that she had 'Indian blood' which accounted for her dark-hued complexion and straight black hair. She sang soprano in the glee club and was the featured soloist at the local churches in Poughkeepsie.[5]

In 1997, Vassar African-American studies students petitioned college president Frances D. Fergusson to recognize Anita Hemmings at that year's centennial celebration. Writing about it in Vassar Quarterly, Olivia Mancini, a local journalist, argued: "It brought [Hemmings’] graduation and presence to a level of honor that it should have had a hundred years ago." Vassar has acknowledged Anita Hemmings as the first African American to graduate the college, but for almost all of her college career, she ‘passed’ as white. Today, she would be listed as black, or other ethnic designation. Then, she was one of the class of multiracial Americans. The term may also include Americans of mixed-race ancestry who self-identify with just one group culturally and socially (cf. the one-drop rule)

AmCyc Vassar College

In popular culture[edit]

In November 2017, it was announced that Zendaya will produce and star in a biopic of Hemmings' life titled A White Lie, based on the 2016 novel The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe. Reese Witherspoon will also produce the project and Monica Beletsky will write the script. TriStar Pictures will distribute the film.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frederick John Hemmings".[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Fading To White | American History Lives at American Heritage". Archived from the original on August 12, 2009. Retrieved 2015-07-11.
  3. ^ "Passing as White - Vassar, the Alumnae/i Quarterly". Retrieved 2015-04-29.
  4. ^ "Passing: How posing as white became a choice for many black Americans". Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  5. ^ "Passing For White". Retrieved 2015-04-30.
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