Anita F. Hill

Honored by:Junetta Davis and Dianne Bystrom
Brick location:A:19  map

Anita F. Hill perhaps is best known for focusing public attention on sexual harassment and the abuse of power in the work place in her testimony during the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in October 1991. Her riveting testimony about sexual harassment by Thomas while she worked for him was a turning point in the public awareness of sexual harassment and a wake-up call for women. She chronicles these hearings and their effect on her life in a personal memoir Speaking Truth to Power published in October 1997.

When subpoenaed to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hill was a little-known professor of law at the University of Oklahoma where she taught courses in contracts commercial law civil rights and civil liberties. Few will forget how members of the Senate committee treated Hill in hearings televised before the entire world. Sen. Arlen Spector accused her of perjury. Sen. Alan Simpson threatened her with "real harassment different from the sexual kind just plain old Washington variety harassment which is pretty unique in itself."

It was perhaps Simpson’s statement that gave rise to harassment Oklahoma style. One state legislator Rep. Leonard Sullivan tried every way he could to get her fired from the University even introducing a bill in the legislature to close the OU College of Law. A Norman Oklahoma crank harassed university officials for information on every facet of Hill’s employment at OU challenging a sabbatical and an unpaid leave of absence. Both fought the establishment of a professorship in her name at the College of Law before meetings of the university and state regents. They failed but votes on both boards were split.

Hill was born July 30, 1956 in the rural community of Lone Tree, Oklahoma as the 13th child to Albert and Erma Hill. She and her sister JoAnn were the only Hill children to attend integrated public schools. Hill is a 1980 graduate of Yale University School of Law where she was honored as NAACP-LDF-Earl J. Warren Legal Scholar. Her undergraduate degree is from Oklahoma State University where she was a National Merit Scholar and OSU Regents Scholar.

She was on the president’s and dean’s honor rolls at OSU and was its nominee for the Danforth Fellowship. Her professional career began as an associate in the law firm of Ward Harkrader & Ross Washington D.C. where she served from 1980-1981. From 1981-1982 she was special counsel to Clarence Thomas in the office of the assistant secretary Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. She served from 1982-1983 as special assistant to Chairman Clarence Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When she left EEOC she took a teaching job at the O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oklahoma where she served from 1983-1986. Hill served as professor of law at the University of Oklahoma from 1986-1997. Following her resignation from the University of Oklahoma in January 1997 Hill was a visiting researcher in the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California--Berkeley. In the fall of 1998 she will serve as visiting professor in the Women’s Studies Department at Brandeis University in Waltham Massachusetts. She will teach an undergraduate course in Race and the Law and a graduate seminar in Women Media and the Law.

Hill has published widely in law journals news magazines and newspapers. Her first book Race Gender and Power in America—The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings was published in 1995 by Oxford University Press and edited with Professor Emma Coleman Jordan. Since 1991 she has lectured nationally and internationally on civil and human rights as well as sexual harassment. Her lectures have taken her to Japan, France, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa.

In 1992 she spoke at the Carlson Lecture Series at the University of Minnesota. In 1998 she was the featured guest and speaker at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics Fifth Annual Strong-Minded Women Reception Dinner and Awards Ceremony. Friends and supporters established the Anita Faye Hill Professorship at the University of Oklahoma College of Law which will support study and research on women and minorities in the work place. The position which was approved by the Oklahoma State Board of Regents in Fall 1995 has yet to be filled.