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.
In this episode of “Other: Mixed Race in America,” we learn the story of Hemmings, and we also learn about the legacy of passing that is inherited through generations of mixed-race Americans.
Learn more about the other episodes here:
- Race is more than just black and white. This new podcast explores some of that middle ground.
- Why it can be hard to date as a multiracial person
- What happens to your cultural heritage when you marry someone of a different race?
- The debate over who counts as ‘American’ is nothing new. Just ask this woman who was put in an internment camp when she was 10.
- Why it’s so powerful to see yourself represented in pop culture
- ‘That’s my story’: Heidi Durrow on why stories about multiracial identity just aren’t niche offerings
- How Ruth Ozeki renamed herself