confirmation hearing

Anita Hill

Anita Faye Hill (born ) is a professor of social policy, law, and women's studies at Brandeis University at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a former colleague of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She is best known for testifying under oath at Thomas' 1991 Senate confirmation hearings that Thomas had made provocative sexual statements to her while being her supervisor.

Early career

Anita F. Hill was born in Lone Tree, Oklahoma, Hill received her undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in 1977 and her Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1980.

A professor of social policy, law, and women's studies, Hill was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1980. Hill began her law career as an associate with the Washington, D.C., firm of Wald, Harkrader & Ross. In 1981 she served as counsel to the assistant secretary of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. From 1982 to 1983, she moved on to serve as assistant to the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas (see below). Hill became a professor at Oral Roberts University, where she actively taught from 1983 to 1986. In 1986, she joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Clarence Thomas controversy

In 1981, Hill became an attorney-adviser to Clarence Thomas at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). When Thomas became Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Hill went to the EEOC with Thomas and his then-secretary, Diane Holt, to serve as his special assistant. Hill alleges that it was during these two periods (i.e., during her employment at ED and EEOC) that Thomas made sexually provocative statements.

Although Hill was a career employee (Schedule A) and therefore had the option of remaining at the Department of Education, she testified that she followed Thomas because, "[t]he work, itself, was interesting, and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures . . . had ended." Also, she testified that she wanted to work in the civil-rights field, and that she believed that "at that time the Department of Education, itself, was a dubious venture."

On October 11, 1991, Hill was called to testify during the Senate confirmation hearing of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill's allegations against Thomas were made public when information from an FBI interview about the allegations was leaked to the media days before the final Senate vote on his appointment. Thomas was nominated by then-President George H.W. Bush to replace the retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Hill's testimony included a wide variety of language she allegedly was subjected to by Thomas that she found inappropriate:

"He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes....On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess....Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'."

Four individuals (Ellen Wells, John W. Carr, Judge Susan Hoerchner, and Joel Paul) testified that Hill had been upset at the time she worked for Thomas about what she had said was sexual harassment by him. Angela Wright, another of Thomas' subordinates, stated that she had also been sexually harassed by him but did not testify so at the hearings and Rose Jourdain testified that Wright had been upset at that time about what she had also said was sexual harassment by Thomas. Wright had been fired by Thomas from the EEOC.

Thomas made a blanket denial of the accusations, claiming this was a "high-tech lynching", and, after extensive debate, the U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52-48.


Public interest in, and debate over, Hill's testimony is said by some to have launched modern-day public awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in the United States.

In their Black feminist anthology, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies, Editors Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith describe Black feminists mobilizing "a remarkable national response to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas (Supreme Court nomination) in 1991, naming their effort African American Women in Defense of Ourselves.


Doubts about her testimony were furthered by the widely publicized and later recanted claims of journalist David Brock, in his book The Real Anita Hill. Brock, later describing the book as "character assassination", disavowed it and apologized to Hill; he also suggests that he used information provided by an intermediary of Thomas to threaten another witness, Kaye Savage, into backing down, which Savage confirms. His recantation was published in the July 1997 issue of Esquire Magazine, in a piece titled "I was a Conservative Hit Man." and, in his subsequent book, Blinded by the Right, he accuses himself of being "a witting cog in the Republican sleaze machine."

In 1998, Anita Hill penned her autobiography, Speaking Truth To Power.

"I see ... the faces of these young people, and I see their hearts and that they really do want change, and that they deserve it," said Hill. "They deserve a better society and so that is what motivates me and I think that I can be a part of creating that and having [been] given that chance, I don't want to blow it."

In 2007, Clarence Thomas published his memoirs, revisiting the Anita Hill controversy. He describes her as touchy and apt to overreact and her work at the EEOC as mediocre. He wrote in his autobiography, My Grandfather's Son:

On Sunday morning, courtesy of Newsday, I met for the first time an Anita Hill who bore little resemblance to the woman who had worked for me at EEOC and the Education Department. Somewhere along the line she had been transformed into a conservative, devoutly religious Reagan-administration employee. In fact she was a left-winger who'd never expressed any religious sentiments whatsoever during the time I'd known her, and the only reason why she'd held a job in the Reagan administration was because I'd given it to her.
In an op-ed piece written by Anita Hill, appearing in the New York Times on October 2, 2007, Ms. Hill writes that she "will not stand by silently and allow [Justice Thomas], in his anger, to reinvent me."

Recent career

Hill has provided expert commentary on many national television programs. Hill has been featured on “Today,” “60 Minutes” and “Face the Nation.” Hill is also the author of many articles which have been published in “The New York Times,” “Newsweek,” and "Critical Race Feminism." In addition, she has contributed to many scholarly and legal publications. Hill is also a sought-after public speaker in many arenas, including law and women's rights.

In 1995, Hill co-edited Race, Gender and Power in America with Emma Coleman Jordan. She has also "written extensively on international commercial law, bankruptcy, and civil rights".

On October 29, 1996, Hill resigned from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She obtained a position at the Institute for the Study of Social Change at University of California, Berkeley in January 1997.

In 1997, Hill joined the faculty of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, after time at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Program.

In 2005, Hill was selected as a Fletcher Foundation Fellow.

In 2008, Professor Hill was awarded the Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award by the Ford Hall Forum.


External links

Search another word or see confirmation hearingon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature