Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2016-06-14 15:25Z by Steven


Busboys and Poets
Langston Room
2021 14th Street, NW (14 & V Street, NW)
Washington, D.C. 20009
Tuesday, 2016-06-14, 18:30-20:30 EDT (Local Time)

Politics & Prose at Busboys and Poets 14th & V welcomes Karin Tanabe to present the new book “The Gilded Years.”

A Politico journalist turned novelist, Tanabe has reported on politics and society for Entertainment Tonight, CNN, and Inside Edition, experience she drew on for the Washington insider fiction of The List and The Price of Inheritance. Her third novel looks at class, race, and ambition in the Gilded Age, following smart and talented Anita Hemmings—daughter of a janitor—as she realizes her dream of attending Vassar. But Anita is also the descendent of slaves, and though her pale skin allows her to “pass” for white, as she moves among the wealthy elite of 1897 high society, she walks an increasingly tense line concerning her identity.

Tanabe will be in conversation with LaFleur Paysour, communications director for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

For more information, click here.

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The Gilded Years, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2016-06-07 14:42Z by Steven

The Gilded Years, A Novel

Washington Square Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781501110450
eBook ISBN: 9781501110467

Karin Tanabe
Washington, D.C.

Passing meets The House of Mirth in this “utterly captivating” (Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House) historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white—until she let herself grow too attached to the wrong person.

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

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Passing as White: Anita Hemmings 1897

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2012-03-04 20:50Z by Steven

Passing as White: Anita Hemmings 1897

Vassar Alumnae/i Quarterly
Volume 98, Issue 1 (Winter 2001)

Olivia Mancini ‘00

When Anita Florence Hemmings applied to Vassar in 1893, there was nothing in her records to indicate that she would be any different from the 103 other girls who were entering the class of 1897. But by August 1897, the world as well as the college had discovered her secret: Anita Hemmings was Vassar’s first black graduate — more than 40 years before the college opened its doors to African Americans.

In the late 19th century, Vassar’s atmosphere might have been best described as aristocratic. Since its opening in 1861, the prestigious women’s school had catered almost exclusively to the daughters of the nation’s elite. Had Hemmings marked her race as “colored” on her application, her admittance to the college most certainly would have been denied.

“She has a clear olive complexion, heavy black hair and eyebrows and coal black eyes,” a Boston newspaper wrote of a 25-year-old Hemmings in August 1897. “The strength of her strain of white blood has so asserted itself that she could pass anywhere simply as a pronounced brunette of white race.”

And pass she did, until her white roommate voiced suspicions about Hemmings’ background to her own father only a few weeks before the class was due to graduate.

The father hired a private investigator to travel to Hemmings’ hometown of Boston. There it was discovered that homemaker Dora Logan and janitor Robert Williamson Hemmings had conspired with their daughter to keep her race a secret…

Read the entire article here.

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