Public Perception Shifts

According to a U.S. News & World Report poll published in 1992: “When the Thomas hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee ended, three times as many Americans (60 percent to 20 percent) said they believed Thomas when he said he had not sexually harassed Hill. But the new poll…shows Americans almost evenly divided (38 percent each) on whom they believe. The survey also shows a big change in the way the public thinks Hill was treated: Last year, only 8 percent thought the Judiciary Committee had treated her unfairly; that number has now jumped to 39 percent.”

Continued Conservative Attacks

“A little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.”

In 1993, David Brock’s book, “The Real Anita Hill,” is published, smearing Anita Hill’s character and credibility. (In 2001, Brock disavowed his book and said he lied to protect the reputation of Justice Clarence Thomas. NYT, June 27, 2001)

“All I want is to see Anita Hill in prison.”

After a one-year leave of absence, Anita Hill returned to her job as a professor at the University of Oklahoma in 1993. Local conservatives vilified her when supporters proposed an endowed chair in her name. The president of the Oklahoma Conservative Committee, who says, “All I want is to see Anita Hill in prison”, led the opposition.

Redemption and Reflection

The authors concluded that the preponderance of evidence suggests Thomas lied under oath when he told the committee he had not harassed Hill.

“African American Women Speak Out on Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas,” an anthology published in 1995 includes essays from 20 black women scholars and writers who reflect on the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings as a pivotal moment in exploring the intersection of race, gender, and class in the United States.

Anita Hill: Educator, Advocate, Inspiration

In 1996, Anita Hill left the University of Oklahoma. The next year, she published an autobiography, “Speaking Truth To Power” and accepted a position as a Professor of Law, Public Policy, and Women’s Studies at Brandeis University. In 2011, Hill published, “Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.” The book explores how race and gender prejudices have persisted, shifting from slavery to segregation to subtler forms of bias, devastating families and communities. Hill has written multiple articles for national publications and contributed to several scholarly and legal works. She has become a public figure, sought after for commentary on race, gender, and sexual harassment issues.

The nationally televised spectacle of Anita Hill being interrogated, condescended to, and shamed by an all white, all male Senate Judiciary Committee was a stark reminder that there were only two women senators in 1991. Women throughout the nation were outraged and spurred into action. They organized, ran for office, supported candidates and got out the vote. In 1993, California became the first state ever to be represented in the Senate by two women – Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. That same year, Carole Mosley Braun of Illinois became the first Black woman Senator and the first Black Senator for the Democratic Party and Patty Murray of Washington won her election, making 1992 the first time in history that four women were elected to the Senate. Journalists coined the phrase “The Year of the Woman” to describe this new phenomenon. 

When she retired in 2016, Barbara Boxer thanked Anita Hill for her example and inspiration. “I also need to pay tribute to Anita Hill, because without her, I never would have been elected to the Senate…You showed us all that we must never be afraid to take on the powerful.” Boxer said. Barbara Boxer Pays Tribute To Anita Hill

In 2017, there are 21 women in the U.S. Senate.

Anita Hill’s story has continued to resonate in popular culture since 1991. In 1999, Showtime aired the movie, “Strange Justice,” starring Delroy Lindo as Clarence Thomas and Regina Taylor as Anita Hill. Freida Lee Mock directed the documentary, “Anita”, in 2013 and the HBO film “Confirmation” was released in 2016, starring Kerry Washington as Anita Hill and Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas. 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.