Anita Hill: An Enduring Voice on Sex, Gender and Race
By Katherine Gilyard
Women have been commemorating the 25th anniversary of the historic hearings with Anita Hill that would pave the way for victims of sexual harassment in the workplace to be empowered enough to report and share their stories, without fear of negative recourse.
The author, lawyer, activist, scholar and educator bravely stood on unprecedented ground in testifying against then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with her claims of sexual harassment.
Hill’s actions since the 1991 Senate hearings have opened up discussions on sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond, leading to the passage of a bill that grants affected persons the right to seek damages and other compensation. Hill also sparked a surge of women seeking political office.
“I am really proud to be a part in whatever way of women becoming active in the political scene,” she said. “I think it was the first time that people came to terms with the reality of what it meant to have a Senate made up of 98 men and two women.”
Her story was recently depicted on HBO in “Confirmation,” starring Kerry Washington, who also served as co-executive producer. Hill was also the subject of “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” by Oscar-winning director Freida Mock.
Hill, now 59, is a University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Brandeis University. She has also used her legal expertise as an attorney in civil rights and employment. Her books include Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home in 2011; Race, Gender and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings, co-edited with Emma Coleman Jordan in 1995; and her 1997 autobiography, Speaking Truth to Power.
Thomas has spent most of the last quarter-century without uttering a word during sessions at U.S. Supreme Court. Many Americans have considered the 67-year-old’s silence irresponsible — even if they don’t really want to hear what he has to say — because he is filling the seat of Thurgood Marshall, the only other African American to serve on the high court.
Then and now, Hill continues to embolden in us the importance of knowing, finding and using our voices in spite of naysayers, doubters and those who refuse to listen.
“I did what my conscience told me to do,” Hill said, “and you can’t fail if you do that.”
Katherine Gilyard is an independent journalist in Washington, D.C.