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Informative Essay on Anita Florence Hemmings

0 August 11 2014, 20:01 in Informative Essay

Informative Essay on Anita Florence Hemmings

For many centuries, African Americans have suffered discrimination as they were given unequal opportunities in terms of human rights, employment, and education. There are however, some figures who strived and dedicated most of their lives to put an end to color prejudice; and of them is Anita Florence Hemmings.

Anita Florence Hemmings is regarded as the first known African American to graduate from Vassar College (Mance 1). Growing up, Hemmings knew very well that race is an issue which could either help or hinder an individual achieve his or her dreams. One of her dreams was to finish schooling. However, making her dream a reality was even harder for Hemmings as she was born to a poor family. She was a daughter of a housewife named Dora Logan and janitor Robert Williamson Hemmings who resided in Boston. At a young age, her parents saw that Anita "was very ambitious” and was "willing and ready to do what was necessary to obtain a college education” (Bickerstaff 6). And this inspired them to work even harder in order to give their daughter the life that she deserved.

It was in 1893, when their son Frederick joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a "colored” student. In the same year, Anita entered the prestigious Vassar College in Hudson Valley in New York. However, during the 1890s, numerous educational institutions in the United States were noted for their resistance to admitting African Americans, let along Black women. Vassar College in particular, was regarded as one of the "last of its peer institutions to open its doors to colored women”. The school is known to have taken good care of their image and reputation as a college that upholds intellectual rigor, aristocratic nature, and for some it voiced an identity of an Anglo-Saxon feminist principle.

Nonetheless, the Hemmings conspired with their daughter and asked her to conceal her race as this was her only chance to enter to the esteemed college. Part of their reason was because they knew that their daughter had to wait for fifty more years before she can be admitted as a "colored” student. Hence, she had to take a defiant choice and take her "colored” self underground. As Vassar’s resistance to admitting Black women prevailed for another decade, Hemmings continued entering the institution as a White girl. Her parents who knew this, later revealed that "As long as she conducted herself as a lady… it is not necessary to proclaim the fact that her parents were mulattoes”.

In school, Anita had proven herself as an exceptional student. She mastered Latin as well as ancient Greek and French. She was similarly a soprano in the college choir and has been invited numerous times to sing solo recitals at local churches. Her classmates also see her as an "exotic beauty” as she was believed to have a Native American heritage. And on 1897, Hemmings went up the stage during her commemoration exercises to receive her college diploma. No one in her class knew that she was leaving Vassar with a Negro blood.

Soon enough, the entire Vassar College found her secret. Heartbroken, Hemmings returned to Boston where she worked for several years as a cataloguers in Boston Public Library. Years after, she married Dr. Andrew Jackson who was a practicing physician in New York. The couple then decided to settle in Manhattan where they lived as whites (Mancini 1). Through her story, Anita proved to the whole world that African American women deserve the same opportunities as others, regardless of their skin color or heritage.

Reference

Bickerstaff, Joyce. "Color Girl at Vassar: The life of Anita Hemmings”. Vassar College. Retrieved 4 August 2014, from http://newspaperarchives.vassar.edu/cgi-

bin/vassar?a=d&d=miscellany19990402-01.2.25#

Mance, Ajuan. "Black Higher Education Firsts”. Twilight and Reason. Retrieved 4 August 2014, from http://twilightandreason.wordpress.com/category/women/

Mancini, Olivia. "Passing as White: Anita Hemmings”. Vassar College. Retrieved 4 August 2014, from http://vq.vassar.edu/issues/2002/01/features/passing-as-white.html


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