Zendaya To Star As The First Black Vassar Graduate Who Passed As White

Zendaya, A White Lie

Zendaya is set to star and produce a new film ("A White Lie") with Reese Witherspoon about the first black woman to graduate from Vassar after passing as white.

Zendaya And Reese Witherspoon To Produce A White Lie

Recent reports have confirmed that Reese Witherspoon and Zendaya will produce your new favorite film called A White Lie. Deadline revealed that the new movie will be a psychological thriller based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first American-American woman to ever graduate Vassar College. The catch? Hemmings, who was a light-skinned black woman in the 1890s, was only able to attend the college by "passing as white." And if that thought doesn't chill you to your core, it might be time for a quick lesson.


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Who Is Anita Hemmings?

A White Lie is an adaptation of the fictional novel The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe, which focuses on the risks Hemmings is willing to take to earn a college degree. The story itself focuses on Hemmings' relationship with her roommate, Louise "Lottie" Taylor, who happens to be a member of one of New York's most prominent families. Despite Hemmings' worries and fear of getting caught, the two become friends and Hemmings learns what it is like to be treated as one of New York's elite. However, things start to become far more dangerous after Lottie becomes infatuated with Hemmings' brother.

For Hemmings' real story, we turn to Vassar College. In a feature article in Vassar magazine, Hemmings became the first black graduate 40 years before the college even opened its doors to African Americans. The article says that has Hemmings marked her race as "colored", she would have been denied. Hemmings also almost graduated without anyone finding out her secret. A few short weeks before her graduation, Hemmings' roommate dug into her past, even getting her father to hire a private investigator to find out if Hemmings was really English and French. Despite all of this, Vassar rightfully received her diploma.

Why Is Zendaya and Reese Witherspoon's A White Lie Important?

While The Gilded Years is ultimately fiction, it's important to note that the novel is based on Hemmings' very real life and story of how she was able to graduate from Vassar, a prestigious college in 1897 as a black woman. And that in itself is something worth remembering. Keep in mind that African American students were not allowed to attend prestigious colleges until the 1940s and even then, black students were being escorted into universities by U.S. Marshals and physically blockaded by order of the Governor on their way to register for classes well into the 1960s.

Now that we live in a time where the elected President of the United States openly hates people of color and women, representation in the media matters the most. The 1960s was only 57 years ago and people need to start recognizing the risks, struggle, and strides women of color have made to gain basic rights and opportunities. And right now, A White Lie sounds like just the film we need.


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