Anita Hill

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For the Lutheran pastor, see Anita C. Hill.
Anita Hill
Anita Hill at Brandeis University.jpg
Anita Hill at Brandeis University
Born Anita Faye Hill
(1956-07-30) July 30, 1956 (age 59)[1]
Lone Tree, Oklahoma, US
Residence Massachusetts[2]
Nationality American
Education Attorney
Alma mater Oklahoma State University
Yale Law School
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 supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of sexual harassment.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

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 hailed 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, Hill enrolled at Oklahoma State University, receiving a bachelor's degree with honors, in psychology 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[edit]

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' 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' 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 she had wanted to work in the civil rights field, she had no alternative job, "and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures ... had ended."[5]

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]

Four female witnesses waited in the wings to reportedly support Hill's credibility, but they were not called,[13][14] due to what the Los Angeles Times described as a private, compromise deal between "aggressive, gloves-off" Republicans and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Democrat Joe Biden.[15] 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.[14]

Hill agreed to take a polygraph test. The results supported the veracity of her statements;[16] 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.[17][18] 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.[14][19]

Thomas's supporters questioned Hill's credibility, claiming she was delusional or had been spurned, leading her to seeking 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][20] Hill countered that she came 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,[14] though he later recanted the claims he had made, described his book as "character assassination", and apologized to Hill.[21][22] 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.[19][23] Time magazine remarked in 1994, however, that "Their book doesn't quite nail that conclusion."[14] 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."[24][25] 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".[26]

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.[26] He described Hill as touchy and apt to overreact, and her work at the EEOC as mediocre.[26][27] He acknowledged that three other former EEOC employees had backed Hill's story, but said they had all left the agency on bad terms.[27] 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."[28] 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][29]

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.[18][30] 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."[18] Virginia Thomas responded that the call had been intended as an "olive branch".[18]


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.[31][32] One year later, harassment complaints filed with the EEOC were up 50 percent and public opinion had shifted in Hill's favor.[32] Private companies also started training programs to deter sexual harassment.[31] 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."[33]

The manner in which the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee challenged and dismissed Hill's accusations of sexual harassment angered women politicians and lawyers.[34] According to D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Hill's treatment by the panel also contributed 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.[35]

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][36] 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] E. Z. Million, a local conservative activist and business consultant, organized protests and compared Hill to the assassin of President Kennedy.[10][36] Certain officials at the university attempted to revoke Hill's tenure.[37] After five years of pressure, Hill resigned.[10]

Later career[edit]

Anita Hill, 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.
Anita Hill and Charles Ogletree at a screening of Anita in September 2014

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,[38] 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][39]

In 1995 Hill co-edited Race, Gender and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings with Emma Coleman Jordan.[4][40] In 1997 Hill published her autobiography, Speaking Truth to Power,[41] 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.[42] 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.[43] 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][44] 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 University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies.[45] The title of University Professor is one of Brandeis’ most prestigious academic honors. It is awarded to faculty members of surpassing eminence whose work cuts across disciplinary boundaries, who have achieved exceptional scholarly or professional distinction within the academic community, and whose appointment will enhance the reputation and prestige of the university.

In popular culture[edit]

Hill was the subject of the 2013 documentary film Anita by director Freida Lee Mock, which chronicles her experience during the Clarence Thomas scandal.[46][47] 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 will be portrayed by actress Kerry Washington in the upcoming HBO film Confirmation (film).[49]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 2005 Hill was selected as a Fletcher Foundation Fellow. In 2008 she was awarded the Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award[50] by the Ford Hall Forum. She also serves on the Board of Trustees for Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont.[51] 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).[52][53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anita Hill (2011). Speaking Truth to Power. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 53. ISBN 9780307779663. 
  2. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Hill, Anita F. (1956-)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "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, 12, and 13, 1991. Retrieved October 21, 2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ a b c "Anita Hill’s book on gender, race and home creating a stir", “BrandeisNOW”, 30 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d Roberto Suro (October 8, 1991). "The Thomas Nomination; A Law Professor Defends Integrity". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Attorneys: Anita F. Hill, Of Counsel". Cohen Milstein. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Suro, Roberto (October 9, 1981). "The Thomas Nomination - Woman at Center of Furor Seeks Quiet of Law Classes". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Jo Thomas (November 13, 1996). "Anita Hill Plans to Leave Teaching Post in Oklahoma". The New York Times. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c d e f g Cynthia Gordy (October 18, 2011). "Anita Hill Defends Her Legacy". The Root. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Richard Lacayo (November 14, 1994). "Strange Justice: A Book on Clarence Thomas". Time. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  15. ^ Douglas Frantz and 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. 
  16. ^ Martin Tolchin (October 14, 1991). "The Thomas Nomination; Hill Said To Pass A Polygraph". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011. 
  17. ^ "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. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b c d Jess Bravin (October 20, 2010). "Justice's Wife Seeks Apology From His Accuser". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Margaret Carlson (July 9, 2001). "Smearing Anita Hill: A Writer Confesses". Time. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  20. ^ "The Thomas Nomination; Questions to Those Who Corroborated Hill Account". The New York Times. October 29, 1991. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  21. ^ Alex Kuczynski and 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. 
  22. ^ By 2004, Brock had made a political about-face from conservative to liberal and founded the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters for America
  23. ^ Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer (1994). Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-63318-4. 
  24. ^ Michael Scherer (October 20, 2010). "'Good Morning Anita Hill, It's Ginni Thomas'". Time. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  25. ^ Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher (April 23, 2007). "Live Q & A - Books:Supreme Discomfort". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  26. ^ a b c Neil A. Lewis (September 30, 2007). "In New Book, Justice Thomas Weighs In on Former Accuser". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  27. ^ a b Associated Press staff (September 28, 2007). "16 years later, Thomas fires back at Anita Hill". Associated Press. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  28. ^ Clarence Thomas (October 2007). My Grandfather's Son. Harper Perennial. p. 250. ISBN 0-06-056555-1. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  29. ^ Anita F. Hill (October 2, 2007). "The Smear This Time". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  30. ^ Savage, Charlie (2010-10-19). "Clarence Thomas's Wife Asks Anita Hill for Apology". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  31. ^ a b "Sexual Harassment 20 Years Later". The New York Times. October 21, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  32. ^ a b Jill Smolowe (October 19, 1992). "Anita Hill's Legacy". Time. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  33. ^ Kennard, Cinny (October 13, 2011). "Twenty Years Later: Covering the Anita Hill Story". HuffPost. Retrieved 6 February 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. 
  34. ^ 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. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ a b Jessica Seigel (May 3, 1993). "Fund, book Spark New Anita Hill Controversy". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  37. ^ Anita Hill (October 12, 2011). "The Stories I Carry With Me". Time. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  38. ^ "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 13 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  39. ^ "Biography of Anita Hill". All American Speakers. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  40. ^ 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. 
  41. ^ Anita Hill (September 17, 1997). Speaking Truth to Power. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-47625-6. 
  42. ^ "Then & Now: Anita Hill". June 19, 2005. Retrieved October 21, 2011. 
  43. ^ "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Retrieved 2015-10-15. 
  44. ^ Anita Hill (October 4, 2011). Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-1437-0. 
  45. ^ BrandeisNow, "Anita Hill named University Professor" April 15, 2015
  46. ^ "Anita (2013)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  47. ^ Film Festivals and Indie Films (January 16, 2014). "Anita Official Trailer 1 (2014) - Documentary HD". YouTube. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  48. ^ "Law & Order: The Unofficial Companion - Updated and Expanded - Kevin Courrier, Susan Green - Google Books". 1999-11-20. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  49. ^ "Kerry Washington to Star as Anita Hill in HBO Movie 'Confirmation' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. March 12, 2015. 
  50. ^ "First Amendment Award History". Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk University. Retrieved October 24, 2011. 
  51. ^ "Board of Trustees". Southern Vermont College. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  52. ^ Michael E. Eidenmuller (2009-02-13). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  53. ^ 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[edit]