June 13, 1967: President Johnson nominates Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, saying it is “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man, and the right place.”
August 30, 1967: Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as an Associate Justice by a Senate vote of 69–11. He is the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
1975: A group of Cornell University women invent the phrase “sexual harassment” after Carmita Wood resigns from her job at Cornell due to unwanted touching from her supervisor and files a claim.
1976: Redbook survey shows that 80% of respondents have encountered sexual harassment on the job.
1986: Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson marks the United States Supreme Court’s recognition of certain forms of sexual harassment as a violation of Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII.
1981: Anita Hill works as an attorney-adviser to Clarence Thomas at the United States Department of Education. Hill earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in psychology at Oklahoma State University, graduated from Yale Law School with honors in 1980, and began her law career at the Washington, D.C. firm of Wald, Harkrader & Ross before joining Thomas at the U.S. Department of Education.
1982: Clarence Thomas named Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which today enforces federal laws that make illegal workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age disability or genetic information. Hill serves as his special assistant until she quits in 1983.
June 28, 1991: Justice Marshall announces his retirement from the Supreme Court. He says that race should not be a factor in choosing his successor and denies rumors he is retiring because of frustration over the conservative direction of the Court.
July 1, 1991: President George H.W. Bush nominates Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to replace Thurgood Marshall.
July 1991: Two months before Senate Confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas begin, Senator Ted Kennedy’s office and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Monopolies and Business Rights both learn about a rumor that a woman claimed she had been sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas.
After President Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas, prominent civil rights groups and leaders announce opposition to the appointment, while others voice support.
Organizations that Supported Clarence Thomas Nomination
U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Women for Judge Thomas, Council of 100, Coalitions for America, American Conservative Union, American Family Association, Americans for Tax Reform, College Republican National Committee, Concerned Women for America, Congress on Racial Equality, Conservative Caucus, Eagle Forum, Family Research Council, National Catholic Education Association, National Center for Public Policy Research, Religious Roundtable, Republican National Hispanic Assembly, United Conservatives of America, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Young Americans for Freedom
Organizations that Opposed Clarence Thomas Nomination
NAACP; AFL-CIO; Women’s Legal Defense Fund; People for the American Way; Alliance for Justice; National Abortion Rights Action League; Nation Institute; Congressional Black Caucus; Americans for Democratic Action; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Association of University Women; United Church of Christ; League of United Latin American Citizens, and National Organization for Women
Over the summer of 1991, news coverage and national polls reflect the controversial climate surrounding the Clarence Thomas nomination.
July 1, 1991, CBS Poll: An ABC News poll of 553 people found that 54 percent considered Thomas “a good choice” and 60 percent liked the fact that Bush had nominated a conservative to the court. Fifty-six percent said they agreed with Thomas’ opposition to programs that give preference to minorities.
July 4, 1991, New York Times: Judge Thomas Faces Bruising Battle With Liberals Over Stand on Rights
July 5, 1991, USA Today Poll: In a poll of Black Americans, 54% approved of Thomas’ nomination; 17% disapproved. 52% said Thomas does not represent views of most blacks. 36% said Thomas will do a good job ensuring equal rights for minorities. Only 7% thought Thomas would be more effective than retiring Thurgood Marshall; 19% said he would be as effective; 29%, less effective.
July 11, 1991, Chicago Tribune: Clarence Thomas And Two Formulas For Black Progress. “Thomas is no traitor to his race to say that when a new approach has failed, it’s time to reconsider old ones that have worked.”
August 25, 1991: Maya Angelou writes “I Dare to Hope,” in the New York Times — “Because Clarence Thomas has been poor, has been nearly suffocated by the acrid odor of racial discrimination, is intelligent, well trained, black and young enough to be won over again, I support him.”
August 28, 1991, New York Times: Bar Association Splits on Fitness Of Thomas for the Supreme Court — The bar association committee that conducts the evaluations split on President Bush’s choice to succeed Thurgood Marshall on the Court, with a majority rating Judge Thomas “qualified” for the job and a minority of two members finding him “unqualified.” No one on the committee found him to be “well qualified,” the third available rating and the association’s highest.
September 10, 1991: The Senate Committee on the Judiciary opens sessions on the Nomination of Clarence Thomas to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
September 10, 1991: The Judiciary Committee’s Labor Subcommittee contacts Anita Hill. During the next five days she insists that she does not want to testify in public, that she wants to understand the process, that she wants to know whether others have reported similar behavior. She also encourages the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether other women have claims. She is not given details about the process.
September 20, 1991: Anita Hill agrees to speak to the FBI on condition that her written statement will accompany the FBI report delivered to the Judiciary Committee.
September 27, 1991: The Senate Judiciary Committee deadlocks 7-7 on the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and votes to send Judge Thomas’s nomination without a recommendation to the full Senate. Judiciary Panel Deadlocks, 7-7, On Thomas Nomination to Court
October 2, 1991: Anita Hill is first contacted by the press and realizes over the next few days that her statement to the Committee was leaked to the media.
October 6, 1991: Nina Totenberg reports about Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas on National Public Radio: “Thomas Accused of Sexual Harassment.”
October 6, 1991: Newsday article by Timothy Phelps hits the wires: “Ex-Aide Says Thomas Sexually Harassed Her.” A University of Oklahoma law professor told the FBI last month that she was sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas while working for him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“My integrity has been called into question.”
On October 7, 1991, Anita Hill calls a press conference. “My integrity has been called into question, by people who have never spoken to me … People are talking about this as a political ploy. And all that is, is an attempt not to deal with the issue itself. It is an unpleasant issue. It’s an ugly issue, and people don’t want to deal with it generally, and in particular in this case.”
October 8, 1991: Senator Biden calls Anita Hill to tell her that the committee will hold a second round of hearings and to give her the option to testify.
“I totally and unequivocally deny Anita Hill’s allegations.”
On October 8, 1991, Clarence Thomas’ Affidavit is made public. “As I told the Federal Bureau of Investigation on September 28, 1991, I totally and unequivocally deny Anita Hill’s allegations of misconduct of any kind toward her, sexual or otherwise. These allegations are untrue.” Affidavit By Thomas, New York Times, October 8, 1991
October 11, 1991: Senate Judiciary Committee reopens Clarence Thomas hearings. Broadcast live over three days, the proceedings are viewed by more than 20 million Americans.
October 11, 1991: Clarence Thomas makes an opening statement:
Mr. Chairman, I am a victim of this process and my name has been harmed, my integrity has been harmed, my character has been harmed, my family has been harmed, my friends have been harmed. There is nothing this committee, this body or this country can do to give me my good name back, nothing. I will not provide the rope for my own lynching or for further humiliation. I am not going to engage in discussions, nor will I submit to roving questions of what goes on in the most intimate parts of my private live or the sanctity of my bedroom. These are the most intimate parts of my privacy, and they will remain just that, private.
October 11, 1991: Anita Hill gives an opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee: “During this period at the Department of Education, my working relationship with Judge Thomas was positive. I had a good deal of responsibility and independence. I thought he respected my work and that he trusted my judgment. After approximately three months of working there, he asked me to go out socially with him. What happened next and telling the world about it are the two most difficult things — experiences of my life. It is only after a great deal of agonizing consideration and … a great number of sleepless nights that I am able to talk of these unpleasant matters to anyone but my close friends…
It would have been more comfortable to remain silent. I took no initiative to inform anyone. But, when I was asked by a representative of this committee to report my experience, I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent.”
After Anita Hill’s opening statement, her family arrives at the hearings and sits directly behind her. Anita Hill is surrounded in the Senate hall by her 79-year old parents, five sisters, and a brother. Her father Albert traveled on a plane for the first time in his life to be there.
October 11, 1991: 14 white male Senators question Anita Hill.
Senator Specter: Professor Hill, you said that you took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex with you, but in fact he never did ask you to have sex, correct?
Ms. Hill: No, he did not ask me to have sex. He did continually pressure me to go out with him, continually, and he would not accept my explanation as being valid.
Senator Specter: So that when you said you took it to mean, “We ought to have sex,” that that was an inference that you drew?
Ms. Hill: Yes, yes.
Senator Specter: Was there any substance in Ms. Barry’s flat statement that, “Ms. Hill was disappointed and frustrated that Mr. Thomas did not show any sexual interest in her”?
Ms. Hill: No, there is not. There is no substance to that. He did show interest, and I have explained to you how he did show that interest.
Senator Specter: I want to ask you about one statement of Charles Kothe, Dean Kothe, because he knew you and Judge Thomas very well…And this is his concluding statement: “I find the references to the alleged sexual harassment not only unbelievable but preposterous. I am convinced that such are the product of fantasy.” Would you care to comment on that?
Ms. Hill: Well, I would only say that I am not given to fantasy. This is not something that I would have come forward with, if I were not absolutely sure about what it is I am saying.
Senator Specter: And in the context of a sexual harassment charge where the Federal law is very firm on a 6-month period of limitation, how sure can you expect this committee to be on the accuracy of your statements?
Ms. Hill: There’s nothing in the statement, nothing in my background…there is no motivation that would show that I would make up something like this. I guess one does have to really understand something about the nature of sexual harassment. It is very difficult for people to come forward with these things, these kinds of things. It wasn’t as though I rushed forward with this information.
Senator Simpson: Well, it just seems so incredible to me that you would not only have visited with him twice after that period and after he was no longer able to manipulate you or to destroy you, that you then not only visited with him but took him to the airport, and then 11 times contacted him. That part of it appalls me. I would think that these things…are so repugnant, so ugly, so obscene, that you would never have talked to him again, and that is the most contradictory and puzzling thing for me.
Ms. Hill: That is a very good question, and I am sure that I cannot answer that to your satisfaction…I have suggested that I was afraid of retaliation, I was afraid of damage to my professional life, and I believe that you have to understand that this response—and that is one of the things that I have come to understand about harassment— that this response, this kind of response, is not atypical, and I can’t explain. It takes an expert in psychology to explain how that can happen, but it can happen, because it happened to me.
October 11, 1991: After Anita Hill’s nearly eight-hour long testimony, Clarence Thomas makes a statement to Senate Judiciary Committee and says that he did not watch Hill’s nationally televised testimony because he had “heard enough lies.”
“A circus, a national disgrace, a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.”
“This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It’s a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.” LA Times, October 12, 1991
October 12, 1991: During detailed questioning of Clarence Thomas, Senator Orrin Hatch suggests Anita Hill invented her sexual harassment allegations by fabricating details borrowed from another case and from the movie “The Exorcist.” He further suggests she is working with “slick lawyers” who helped her invent the reference to “Long John Silver.” Senator Specter accuses Hill of perjury.
The testimony on October 11 causes a national sensation. A sampling of some of the front page headlines:
New York Times: THOMAS ACCUSER TELLS HEARING OF OBSCENE TALK AND ADVANCES; JUDGE COMPLAINS OF ‘LYNCHING’
New York Amsterdam News: Clarence Thomas’ Opponents Now Believe He Can Be Stopped
Los Angeles Times: Many Blacks See Pain and Harm in Controversy
Los Angeles Times: Testimony Leaves One Question: Who’s Lying?
The Washington Post: Hill Describes Details of Alleged Harassment; Thomas Categorically Denies All Her Charges: Court Nominee Calls Ordeal ‘Lynching for Uppity Blacks’
Chicago Tribune: Coverage Offers Class on Sexual Harassment
The Guardian (London): Bush Court Choice Calls Sex Claim Kafkaesque
New York Times: THOMAS BACKERS ATTACK HILL; JUDGE, VOWING HE WON’T QUIT, SAYS HE IS VICTIM OF RACE STIGMA
The Washington Post: Thomas, Allies Step Up Counterattack
The Washington Post: Cry of ‘Lynching’ Opens Wounds: Thomas’s Words Evoke a Range of Emotions Among Blacks in Area
October 13, 1991: Anita Hill’s representatives announce that she has passed a lie detector test.
October 14, 1991: Four friends of Anita Hill testify that she told them many years before about Clarence Thomas’s unwelcome advances and that his inappropriate behavior was her reason for leaving her job at the EEOC. Four women who worked for Thomas at the EEOC then testified in defense of his character. Several other witnesses appear before the Senate but one is never called — Angela Wright, a journalist and a former employee of Thomas at the EEOC. (In 1994, Florence George Graves wrote an article in the Washington Post covering the Angela Wright story, which strongly supported Anita Hill’s testimony, and the possible reasons she was never called to testify.)
October 14, 1991: Senate Judiciary Committee hearings gavel to a close at 2 a.m.
“It was suggested that I had fantasies, that I was a spurned woman and that I had a martyr complex. I will not dignify those theories, except to assure everyone that I am not imagining the conduct to which I testified. I have been deeply hurt and offended by the nature of the attacks on my character. I had nothing to gain by subjecting myself to the process. In fact, I had more to gain by remaining silent. I am hopeful that others who have suffered sexual harassment will not become discouraged by my experience, but instead will find the strength to speak out about this serious problem.” NYT, October 15, 1991
Within hours of Anita Hill’s testimony, Elsa Barkley Brown, Barbara Ransby, and Deborah King launch a nationwide campaign to protest the events surrounding Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court.
October 15, 1991, New York Times/CBS Poll: Most in National Survey Say Judge Is the More Believable — Asked whose account they believed more, twice as many of those who were polled said Judge Thomas’s as said Professor Hill’s.
October 15, 1991: Several polls show increase in black support for Clarence Thomas nomination after hearings end.
October 15, 1991: By a vote of 52 to 48, the narrowest margin in more than a century, the Senate confirms Clarence Thomas.
October 23, 1991: Clarence Thomas is sworn in by Justice Byron White as the 106th Justice of the Supreme Court.
October 1991: Anita Hill says that when she returned to Oklahoma after the hearings, “Republicans tried to get the school to fire me, even though I was tenured. My dean, they tried to get him fired. They tried to close the law school. I was threatened with just about everything – death, sexual violence.”
November 17, 1991: 1,600 signatories contribute $50,000 to publish ad that appears in six major newspapers, “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves.”
1991: Sexual Harassment Legislation Strengthened
The Civil Rights Act is amended to allow sexual harassment victims to recover compensatory damages beyond back pay and entitles plaintiffs to a jury trial. Before this amendment, Title VII entitled sexual harassment victims to collect only back pay, lost wages, and job reinstatement (if they had been forced to leave their job.)
1992: Year of the Woman Sees Record Number of Women Elected to Senate
In 1991, the Senate included just two female members and none were on the Judiciary Committee that conducted the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. The experience of watching a panel of white men interrogate Anita Hill inspired more women to run and be elected in 1992, which became known as the “Year of the Woman.” One senator was reelected, and four other women were elected to the Senate, including Carol Moseley-Braun from Illinois, the first African – American woman senator and the second African American to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction. The number of women in the House of Representatives increased from 28 to 47.
1996: Reports of Sexual Harassment Cases More Than Double
According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filings, reports of sexual harassment cases more than doubled from 6,127 in 1991 to 15,342 in 1996. (In 1998, the Supreme Court rules that same-sex harassment is also unlawful at work).
Please enter your email address.You will receive a link to create a new password via email.
Back to log in