Anita Hill

Anita Hill

Anita Hill is a lawyer, activist and educationist who laid allegations of sexual harassment against a U.S. Supreme Court Justice named Clarence Thomas. She was born on July 30, 1956 in Oklahoma and was the youngest of 13 children born to Albert and Erma Hill. Her family were farmers from Arkansas and her great grandparents were born into slavery. She graduated as the class secretary, valedictorian and member of the National Honor Society from Morris High School. After this she pursued a Bachelors in psychology from Oklahoma State University from where she graduated with honors. She then went on to study law at Yale Law School, where she was among only 10 other African American students. She graduated with honors from Yale in 1980. She was admitted to the Bar the same year and started her law career with a firm named Wald, Harkrader & Ross in Washington D.C.

After spending a year at this firm, Hill accepted a job as secretary to Clarence Thomas, who, at that time, was the head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in Washington. It was during this time that she claims Thomas began making unwanted advances towards her. He stopped temporarily when he was involved with someone else, so she decided to join him when he was appointed as the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Around 1983, she claims that he started behaving in the same way again. Hill then decided to leave his employment, especially after being hospitalized with stress related stomach problems. She accepted a teaching position as a civil rights professor at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, and later at the University of Oklahoma College of Law as a professor of contract law. She was granted tenure after only 4 years of teaching, whereas the minimum standard is usually 6 years. She also served on the faculty senate and was appointed as the faculty administrative fellow in the Office of the Provost.

In 1991, she was asked to supply some information about Thomas to the Senate Judiciary Committee as he was then being considered as a candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. These questions were based on rumors that Thomas had sexually harassed Hill while she was in his employ. They asked her detailed questions about her involvement with Thomas, which she answered in a press conference held at the University of Oklahoma. Anita Hill had initially decided not to get involved, as it would bring her personal life out in vivid detail to the public, but she eventually thought better of it and decided to reveal her side of the story. She named the condition that her identity should be kept confidential but the Federal Bureau of Investigation notified her that it was necessary for her allegations to be made known to Thomas in order to give him a chance to respond.

The case had a live televised hearing, where Hill was questioned by a committee of 14 male legislators, the case was decided in favor of Thomas. Several people questioned her character as well as her motivation to make her story public, but she remained composed and stuck to her story. Clarence Thomas was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court on October 16, 1991. Hill resumed her teaching duties and refused to give any interviews. Anita Hill joined the Institute for the Study of Social Change at University of California, Berkeley and then became a faculty member at Brandeis University. She has written and edited a number of books and has received several awards and honors, including selection as a Fletcher Foundation Fellow and receiving the Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award. She currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Tufts Medical Center and the Board of Directors of the National Women’s Law Center.

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