Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 36
A film about Anita Hemmings, class of 1897,
will soon be on the big screen, thanks to
co-producers Reese Witherspoon and
Zendaya. The actress Zendaya will portray
Hemmings in the biopic.
The movie, A White Lie, is based on the
book The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe '02,
and examines Hemmings's experiences
as a black woman passing as white during
her time at Vassar. At the time, Vassar didn't
admit African American students (it took
40 more years for that to happen knowingly) and Hemmings's ancestry went unnoticed until a few weeks before graduation,
when her roommate started to have suspicions and mentioned them to her father.
Tanabe says she's thrilled to have a
powerhouse group of women behind the
film, including screenwriter Monica
Beletsky. "I can't wait to see what this team
does with Anita's story, which is unfortunately still very relatable today," she says.
The film is billed as a psychological
thriller and involves a private eye, hired
by Hemmings's roommate's father, who
tracked down her family in Boston. Vassar
College President James Monroe Taylor was
made aware of her racial background, but
made the decision to allow Hemmings to
graduate with her class.
Clockwise from top, Alumna Anita Hemmings; the actress Zendaya, who will portray her;
Karen Tanabe '02, author of the book upon which the film is based.
Stay tuned. Vassar is already planning a series of
events, discussions, and educational opportunities
around the release of the film.
Clockwise: Vassar Archives / AP Images / Joseph Allen / Facing page, Alex garland
Finally ... a