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The journey of Anita Hemmings—the first Black woman to graduate from Vassar College—is coming to the big screen, and actress Zendaya will star in and produce the film, Variety reported.

The film, titled A White Lie, is inspired by a book penned by Karin Tanabe titled The Gilded Years, the news outlet writes. The novel delves into colorism and how Hemmings, a light-skinned African American whose family was born into slavery, pretended to be White so that she could attend the institution. After falling in love with a wealthy Harvard student she was introduced to a lavish lifestyle and often struggled with concealing her true identity.

Weeks before she was set to graduate in 1897, her roommate’s father discovered her true racial identity and told school officials. However, Hemmings was allowed to complete her studies and graduate from the school. Nearly 40 years later, Vassar began admitting Black women to the school.

“We as women often have to get over ridiculous hurdles to move up, with women of color often facing even bigger challenges,” said Tanabe in an interview, according to Women and Hollywood. “She fought through heartbreaking prejudice, racism, and classism to have the education she was qualified for, taking huge risks and throwing caution to the wind.”

According to Vassar Africana studies professor Joyce Bickerstaff, several Blacks used their skin tone to be afforded opportunities to further their education. “There were large numbers of African Americans at that time and into the turn of the century [for whom passing] was a means to gain opportunities in education,” she said in an interview, according to the Huffington Post. She added that segregation laws excluded Black families—no matter what their economic level was—from certain institutions.

Monica Beletsky will pen the script and Zendaya, Lauren Neustadter, and Reese Witherspoon will serve as producers. There is no word on a release date.

Will you see the film when it is released?

SOURCE: Variety, Huffington Post, Women and Hollywood

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Zendaya To Portray Vassar’s First Black Graduate In New Film was originally published on newsone.com

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