Anita Hill

For the Lutheran pastor, see Anita C. Hill.
Anita Hill

Anita Hill and Charles Ogletree at Brandeis University in September 2014
Born Anita Faye Hill
(1956-07-30) July 30, 1956[1]
Lone Tree, Oklahoma, U.S.
Residence Massachusetts[2]
Nationality American
Education Attorney
Alma mater Oklahoma State University
Yale University
Occupation Attorney, professor
Years active 1983  present
Employer Brandeis University
Known for Testimony against Clarence Thomas
Board member of Board of Trustees, Southern Vermont College
Awards Fletcher Foundation Fellowship;
Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award

Anita Faye Hill (born July 30, 1956) is an American attorney and academic. She is a University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of Brandeis' Heller School for Social Policy and Management.[3] She became a national figure in 1991 when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her boss at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of sexual harassment.[4]

Early life

Hill was born in Lone Tree, Oklahoma, the youngest of the 13 children of Albert and Erma Hill, who were farmers.[4][5] Her family came from Arkansas, where her great-grandparents and her maternal grandfather, Henry Eliot, were born into slavery.[6] Hill was raised in the Baptist faith.[4]

After graduating as valedictorian from Morris High School, Oklahoma she enrolled at Oklahoma State University, receiving a bachelor's degree with honors in psychology in 1977.[4][5] She went on to Yale Law School, obtaining her Juris Doctor degree with honors in 1980.[4][7]

She was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1980 and began her law career as an associate with the Washington, D.C. firm of Wald, Harkrader & Ross. In 1981, she became an attorney-adviser to Clarence Thomas who was then the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. When Thomas became Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1982, Hill went along to serve as his assistant, leaving the job in 1983.

Hill then became an assistant professor at the Evangelical Christian O. W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University where she taught from 1983 to 1986.[8] In 1986, she joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma College of Law where she taught commercial law and contracts.[9][10]

Clarence Thomas controversy

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, by then a federal Circuit Judge, to succeed retiring Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. Senate hearings on his confirmation were initially completed[11] with Thomas's good character being presented as a primary qualification for the high court because he had only been a judge for slightly more than one year.[12] There had been little organized opposition to Thomas's nomination, and his confirmation seemed assured[12] until a report of a private interview of Hill by the FBI was leaked to the press.[11][13] The hearings were then reopened, and Hill was called to publicly testify.[11][13] Hill said in the October 1991 televised hearings that Thomas had sexually harassed her while he was her supervisor at the Department of Education and the EEOC. When questioned on why she followed Thomas to the second job after he had already allegedly harassed her, she said working in a reputable position within the civil rights field had been her ambition. The position was appealing enough to inhibit her to go back into private practice with her previous firm. She only realized later in her life that this ambitious venture was a poor judgement and also explained that "at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures ... had ended."[5][14]

According to Hill, during her two years of employment as Thomas's assistant, Thomas had asked her out socially many times,[7] and after she refused, he used work situations to discuss sexual subjects.[5][7] "He spoke about...such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes," she said, adding that on several occasions Thomas graphically described "his own sexual prowess" and the details of his anatomy.[5] Hill also recounted an instance in which Thomas examined a can of Coke on his desk and asked, "Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?"[5] During court session, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch implied that "Hill was working in tandem with "slick lawyers" and interest groups bent on destroying Thomas' chances to join the court". Clarence said he considered Hill as a friend whom he had helped at every turn when accusations of harassment came from her made him particularly hurtful and he said, "I lost the belief that if I did my best, all would work out." John Doggett an acquaintance of both Hill and Clarence called her charge "completely unfounded" and added when she chastised him not being on her side that he felt "she was somewhat unstable" and suspects histrionic personality disorder for her attention seeking.[15]

Four female witnesses reportedly waited in the wings to support Hill's credibility, but they were not called,[13][16] due to what the Los Angeles Times described as a private, compromise deal between Republicans and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Democrat Joe Biden.[17] According to Time magazine, one of the witnesses, Angela Wright, may not have been considered credible on the issue of sexual harassment because she had been fired from the EEOC by Thomas.[16]

Hill agreed to take a polygraph test. The results supported the veracity of her statements;[18] Thomas declined the test. He made a vehement and complete denial, saying that he was being subjected to a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks" by white liberals who were seeking to block a black conservative from taking a seat on the Supreme Court.[19][20] After extensive debate, the United States Senate confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52–48, the narrowest margin since the 19th century.[16][21]

Thomas's supporters questioned Hill's credibility, claiming she was delusional or had been spurned, leading her to seek revenge.[13] They cited the time delay of ten years between the alleged behavior by Thomas and Hill's accusations, and noted that Hill had followed Thomas to a second job and later had personal contacts with Thomas, including giving him a ride to an airport—behavior which they said would be inexplicable if Hill's allegations were true.[7][9][13][22] Hill countered that she had come forward because she felt an obligation to share information on the character and actions of a person who was being considered for the Supreme Court.[13] She testified that after leaving the EEOC, she had had two "inconsequential" phone conversations with Thomas, and had seen him personally on two occasions; once to get a job reference and the second time when he made a public appearance in Oklahoma where she was teaching.[5]

Doubts about the veracity of Hill's 1991 testimony persisted long after Thomas took his seat on the Court. They were furthered by American Spectator writer David Brock in his 1993 book The Real Anita Hill,[16] though he later recanted the claims he had made, described in his book as "character assassination," and apologized to Hill.[23][24] After interviewing a number of women who alleged that Thomas had frequently subjected them to sexually explicit remarks, Wall Street Journal reporters Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson wrote a book which concluded that Thomas had lied during his confirmation process.[21][25] Time magazine remarked in 1994, however, that "Their book doesn't quite nail that conclusion."[16] In 2007, Kevin Merida, a coauthor of another book on Thomas, remarked that what happened between Thomas and Hill was "ultimately unknowable" by others, but that it was clear that "one of them lied, period."[26][27] Writing in 2007, Neil Lewis of The New York Times remarked that, "To this day, each side in the epic he-said, she-said dispute has its unmovable believers."[28]

In 2007, Clarence Thomas published his autobiography, My Grandfather's Son, in which he revisited the controversy, calling Hill his "most traitorous adversary" and saying that pro-choice liberals, who feared that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if he were seated on the Supreme Court, used the scandal against him.[28] He described Hill as touchy and apt to overreact, and her work at the EEOC as mediocre.[28][29] He acknowledged that three other former EEOC employees had backed Hill's story, but said they had all left the agency on bad terms.[29] He also wrote that Hill "was a left-winger who'd never expressed any religious sentiments whatsoever...and the only reason why she'd held a job in the Reagan administration was because I'd given it to her."[30] Hill denied the accusations in an op-ed in the New York Times saying she would not "stand by silently and allow [Justice Thomas], in his anger, to reinvent me".[2][31]

In October 2010, Thomas's wife Virginia, a conservative activist, left a voicemail at Hill's office asking that Hill apologize for her 1991 testimony. Hill initially believed the call was a hoax and referred the matter to the Brandeis University campus police who alerted the FBI.[20][32] After being informed that the call was indeed from Virginia Thomas, Hill told the media that she did not believe the message was meant to be conciliatory and said, "I testified truthfully about my experience and I stand by that testimony."[20] Virginia Thomas responded that the call had been intended as an "olive branch".[20]


Public interest in, and debate over, Hill's testimony is said to have launched modern-day public awareness and open discussion of the issue of workplace sexual harassment in the United States with the ultimate result that the behavior is less tolerated today. Shortly after the Thomas confirmation hearings, President George H. W. Bush dropped his opposition to a bill giving harassment victims the right to seek federal damage awards, back pay and reinstatement, and the law was passed by Congress.[33][34] One year later, harassment complaints filed with the EEOC were up 50 percent and public opinion had shifted in Hill's favor.[34] Private companies also started training programs to deter sexual harassment.[33] When journalist Cinny Kennard asked Hill in 1991 if she would testify against Thomas all over again, Hill answered, "I'm not sure if I could have lived with myself if I had answered those questions any differently."[35]

The manner in which the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee challenged and dismissed Hill's accusations of sexual harassment angered women politicians and lawyers.[36] According to D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Hill's treatment by the panel also said to be a contributing factor to the large number of women elected to Congress in 1992, "women clearly went to the polls with the notion in mind that you had to have more women in Congress", she said.[2] In their anthology, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave, editors Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith described black feminists mobilizing "a remarkable national response to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy.[37]

In 1992, a feminist group began a nationwide fundraising campaign and then obtained matching state funds to endow a professorship at the University of Oklahoma Law School in honor of Hill.[10][38] Conservative Oklahoma state legislators reacted by demanding Hill's resignation from the university, then introducing a bill to prohibit the university from accepting donations from out-of-state residents, and finally attempting to pass legislation to close down the law school.[10] Elmer Zinn Million, a local activist and organized protester who caught up by the zeal compared Hill to the assassin of President Kennedy.[10][38] He was known as the "one-armed man" by Oklahoma Observer. Certain officials at the university attempted to revoke Hill's tenure.[39] After five years of pressure, Hill resigned.[10] The University of Oklahoma Law School defunded the Anita F. Hill professorship in May 1999, without the position having ever been filled.

Later career

Hill accepted a position as a visiting scholar at the Institute for the Study of Social Change at University of California, Berkeley in January, 1997,[40] but soon joined the faculty of Brandeis University—first at the Women's Studies Program, later moving to the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. In 2011, she also took a counsel position with the Civil Rights & Employment Practice group of the plaintiffs' law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.[8]

Over the years, Hill has provided commentary on gender and race issues on national television programs, including 60 Minutes, Face the Nation and Meet the Press.[4][8] She has been a speaker on the topic of commercial law as well as race and women's rights.[8] She is also the author of articles that have been published in the New York Times and Newsweek.[4][8] and has contributed to many scholarly and legal publications in the areas of international commercial law, bankruptcy, and civil rights.[8][41]

In 1995 Hill co-edited Race, Gender and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings with Emma Coleman Jordan.[4][42] In 1997 Hill published her autobiography, Speaking Truth to Power,[43] in which she chronicled her role in the Clarence Thomas confirmation controversy[4][6] and wrote that creating a better society had been a motivating force in her life.[44] She contributed the piece "The Nature of the Beast: Sexual Harassment" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[45] In 2011 Hill published her second book, Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home, which focuses on the sub-prime lending crisis that resulted in the foreclosure of many homes owned by African-Americans.[13][46] She calls for a new understanding about the importance of a home and its place in the American Dream.[6] On March 26, 2015, the Brandeis Board of Trustees unanimously voted to recognize Hill with a promotion to Private University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies.[47]

In popular culture

In 1999, Ernest Dickerson directed Strange Justice, a film based on Anita vs. Clarence Thomas controversy. Her case also inspired the 1994 Law & Order episode "Virtue", about a young lawyer who feels pressured to sleep with her supervisor at her law firm.[48] Hill was the subject of the 2013 documentary film Anita by director Freida Lee Mock, which chronicles her experience during the Clarence Thomas scandal.[49][50] Hill was portrayed by actress Kerry Washington in the 2016 HBO film Confirmation.[51] Hill is mentioned in the 1992 Sonic Youth song "Youth Against Fascism". The Clarence Thomas scandal is mentioned in the 1994 Rugrats episode "Mommy's Little Assets."

Written Works

On October 20, 1998, Anita Hill published the book Speaking Truth to Power. Throughout much of the book she gives details on her side of the sexual harassment controversy, and her professional relationship with Clarence Thomas. Aside from that, she also provides a glimpse of what her personal life was like all the way from her childhood days growing up in Oklahoma to her position as a law professor.[43]

In 2011, Hill’s second book, Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home was published .[52] She discusses the relationship between the home and the American Dream. She also exposes the inequalities within gender and race and home ownership. She argues that inclusive democracy is more important than debates about legal rights. She uses her own history and history of other African American women such as Nannie Helen Burroughts, in order to strengthen her argument for reimagining equality altogether.

In 1994, she wrote a tribute to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice who preceded Clarence Thomas, titled A Tribute to Thurgood Marshall: A Man Who Broke with Tradition on Issues of Race and Gender[53]. She notes Thurgood’s contributions to the principles of equality as a judge and how his work has impacted the lives of African Americans, specifically African American women.

Anita F. Hill became a proponent for women’s rights and feminism. This can be seen through the chapter she wrote in the book Women and leadership : the state of play and strategies for change.[54] She wrote about women judges and why, in her opinion, they play such a large role in balancing the judicial system. She argues that since women and men have different life experiences, ways of thinking, and histories, both are needed for a balanced court system. She writes that in order for the best law system to be created in the United States, all people need the ability to be represented.

Awards and recognitions

In 2005, Hill was selected as a Fletcher Foundation Fellow. In 2008 she was awarded the Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award[55] by the Ford Hall Forum. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont.[56] Her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 is listed as #69 in American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century (listed by rank).[57][58] She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.[59]

See also


  1. Anita Hill (2011). Speaking Truth to Power. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 53. ISBN 9780307779663.
  2. 1 2 3 Krissah Thompson (October 6, 2011). "For Anita Hill, the Clarence Thomas hearings haven't really ended". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  3. "Faculty and Researchers, Anita Hill". Brandeis University. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Hill, Anita F. (1956-)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Archived from the original on October 13, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Hearings Before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on The Nomination of Clarence Thomas to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Hill, Anita F. Testimony and prepared statement" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. October 11–13, 1991. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 7, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  6. 1 2 3 "Anita Hill's book on gender, race and home creating a stir", "BrandeisNOW", September 30, 2011.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Roberto Suro (October 8, 1991). "The Thomas Nomination; A Law Professor Defends Integrity". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Attorneys: Anita F. Hill, Of Counsel". Cohen Milstein. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  9. 1 2 Suro, Roberto (October 9, 1991). "The Thomas Nomination - Woman at Center of Furor Seeks Quiet of Law Classes". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Jo Thomas (November 13, 1996). "Anita Hill Plans to Leave Teaching Post in Oklahoma". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  11. 1 2 3 Joel Siegel (October 24, 2011). "Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing 'Empowered Women' and Panel Member Arlen Specter Still Amazed by Reactions". ABC News.
  12. 1 2 Jeffrey Toobin (September 18, 2007). The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. Doubleday. pp. 30–32. ISBN 978-0-385-51640-2.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Cynthia Gordy (October 18, 2011). "Anita Hill Defends Her Legacy". The Root. Archived from the original on November 1, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  15. "Clarence Thomas Versus Anita Hill: He said, She Said - TIME". 21 October 1991. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 Richard Lacayo (November 14, 1994). "Strange Justice: A Book on Clarence Thomas". Time. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  17. Douglas Frantz; Sam Fulwood III (October 17, 1991). "Senators' Private Deal Kept '2nd Woman' Off TV: Thomas: Democrats feared Republican attacks on Angela Wright's public testimony. Biden's handling of the hearing is criticized.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
  18. Martin Tolchin (October 14, 1991). "The Thomas Nomination; Hill Said To Pass A Polygraph". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  19. "Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Testimony of Clarence Thomas, October 11, 1991". Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on September 13, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  20. 1 2 3 4 Jess Bravin (October 20, 2010). "Justice's Wife Seeks Apology From His Accuser". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  21. 1 2 Margaret Carlson (July 9, 2001). "Smearing Anita Hill: A Writer Confesses". Time. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  22. "The Thomas Nomination; Questions to Those Who Corroborated Hill Account". The New York Times. October 29, 1991. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  23. Alex Kuczynski; William Glaberson (June 27, 2001). "Book Author Says He Lied in His Attacks on Anita Hill in Bid to Aid Justice Thomas". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  24. By 2004, Brock had made a political about-face from conservative to liberal and founded the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters for America
  25. Jill Abramson; Jane Mayer (1994). Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-63318-4.
  26. Michael Scherer (October 20, 2010). "'Good Morning Anita Hill, It's Ginni Thomas'". Time. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  27. Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher (April 23, 2007). "Live Q & A - Books:Supreme Discomfort". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  28. 1 2 3 Neil A. Lewis (September 30, 2007). "In New Book, Justice Thomas Weighs In on Former Accuser". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  29. 1 2 Associated Press staff (September 28, 2007). "16 years later, Thomas fires back at Anita Hill". Associated Press. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  30. Clarence Thomas (October 2007). My Grandfather's Son. Harper Perennial. p. 250. ISBN 0-06-056555-1. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  31. Anita F. Hill (October 2, 2007). "The Smear This Time". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
  32. Savage, Charlie (2010-10-19). "Clarence Thomas's Wife Asks Anita Hill for Apology". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 11, 2012. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  33. 1 2 "Sexual Harassment 20 Years Later". The New York Times. October 21, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  34. 1 2 Jill Smolowe (October 19, 1992). "Anita Hill's Legacy". Time. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  35. Kennard, Cinny (October 13, 2011). "Twenty Years Later: Covering the Anita Hill Story". HuffPost. Retrieved February 6, 2015. In Norman that Oct. 15 night, I asked Hill if she would do it all over again. 'I'm not sure if I could have lived with myself if I had answered those questions any differently,' she replied.
  36. Maureen Dowd (October 8, 1991). "The Thomas Nomination: The Senate and Sexism; Panel's Handling of Harassment Allegation Renews Questions About an All-Male Club". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  37. Gloria T. Hull (Ed.), Patricia Bell Scott (Ed.), Barbara Smith (Ed.) (2000). But Some Of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men: Black Women's Studies. Feminist Press at CUNY. p. xvi.
  38. 1 2 Jessica Seigel (May 3, 1993). "Fund, book Spark New Anita Hill Controversy". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 23, 2011.
  39. Anita Hill (October 12, 2011). "The Stories I Carry With Me". Time. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  40. "Anita Hill to be visiting scholar at UC Berkeley during spring 1997 to work on book, give seminars". The Regents of the University of California. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-03.
  41. "Biography of Anita Hill". All American Speakers. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
  42. Anita F. Hill, (Ed), and Emma Coleman Jordan (Ed.) (October 1995). Race, Gender and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508774-7.
  43. 1 2 Anita Hill (September 17, 1997). Speaking Truth to Power. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-47625-6.
  44. "Then & Now: Anita Hill". June 19, 2005. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  45. "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  46. Anita Hill (October 4, 2011). Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1437-0.
  47. BrandeisNow, "Anita Hill named University Professor" April 15, 2015
  48. "Law & Order: The Unofficial Companion - Updated and Expanded - Kevin Courrier, Susan Green - Google Books". 1999-11-20. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  49. "Anita (2013)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  50. Film Festivals and Indie Films (January 16, 2014). "Anita Official Trailer 1 (2014) - Documentary HD". YouTube. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  51. "Kerry Washington to Star as Anita Hill in HBO Movie 'Confirmation' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. March 12, 2015.
  52. Hill, Anita (c 2011). Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press. ISBN 9780807014370. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  53. Hill, Anita F. (1994). "A tribute to Thurgood Marshall: a man who broke with tradition on issues of race and gender.(Symposium: The Life and Jurisprudence of Justice Thurgood Marshall)". Oklahoma Law Review via heinonline.
  54. Hill, Anita (2007). "What Difference Will Women Judges Make? Looking Once More at the "Woman Question"". Women and Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change. 1: 1–29.
  55. "First Amendment Award History". Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  56. "Board of Trustees". Southern Vermont College. Archived from the original on October 20, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
  57. Michael E. Eidenmuller (2009-02-13). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  58. Michael E. Eidenmuller (1991-10-11). "Anita Hill - Opening Statement to Senate Judiciary Committee on the USSC Nomination of Clarence Thomas". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 2015-10-27.

External links

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