Anita Hemmings was Vassar College’s first African American graduate. But no one was supposed to know that she was black.

A light-skinned mixed-race woman, Hemmings passed as white for most of her time at Vassar — until her roommate hired a private investigator to find out the truth.

Hemmings graduated college in 1897 and continued passing as white for the rest of her life. Her story fits in with a broader history of African Americans passing in this country for personal safety, economic and social reasons.