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Vassar College History


First mention of students of color: Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, 1865 September 18

First African American student: Anita Hemmings, VC 1897 (admitted as white)

First African American students: Beatrix McCleary Hamburg, VC1944; Camille Cottrell, VC 1945-4; and June Jackson Christmas, VC 1945-4

First Japanese students: Sutematsu Yamakawa Oyama, VC 1882 and Shigeko Nagai Uriu, Special Student 1878-1881

First Latina student: Amelia Agostini, VC 1922

First Black faculty member: Sterling Brown, visiting professor with the English Department (1945, 1948)

First permanent Black faculty member: Henrietta T. Smith, Professor with the Psychology Department (1954-1990)


Books and Articles

"A Place at the Table." Vassar Quarterly (Winter 2011).

Christmas, June Jackson. "A Historical Overview: The Black Experience at Vassar." Vassar Quarterly (Spring 1988): 3-15.

Kuno, Akiko. Unexpected Destinations: The Poignant Story of Japan's First Vassar Graduate. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993.

Perkins, Linda M. "The African American Female Elite:The Early History of African American Women in the Seven Sister Colleges, 1880-1960." Harvard Educational Review (Winter 1997): 718-756.

Randolph, Liz. "AAAVC Triennial 2015: Reflections on Activism." Vassar Quarterly (Spring/Summer 2015).

Sim, Jillian. "Fading to White." American Heritage (Feb/March 1999).

Tanabe, Karen. The Gilded Years: A Novel. New York: Washington Square Press, 2016. [fictionalized account of Anita Hemmings' experiences while passing as white in order to attend Vassar College] 

Video and Websites