Jillian Sim and the Hemmings Siblings, 1999

Jillian Sim
Courtesy of Jane Feldman

Jill Sim holding photographs of her great-grandmother and great-uncle, among the first African American graduates of Vassar and MIT, respectively, 1999​​​​​.​

It took the death of her grandmother in 1994 for writer Jillian A. Sim to learn of her black ancestry. Her great-uncle was Frederick John Hemmings, MIT Class of 1897. His sister—Sim’s great-grandmother—was Anita Hemmings Love, Vassar's first black woman graduate. 

He had a dreamy-eyed look about him that I recognized in several of my family members. Frederick appeared introspective and hesitant. In the photocopy of his class picture, he is the only black amid seventy or so whites. He stands in the last row of his class, leaning against the side of an imposing MIT building. He looks very much apart from his peers.

Jillian Sim in “Fading to White,” American Heritage (Feb/Mar 1999)

Timeline: 1990s
School: School of Science
Department: Chemistry
Career: EducationScience
Object: Photograph
Collection: Family, Magazine features, Rising Voices 1995-Present, Roots and Exponents 1875-1920, Students, Women