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Professor Anita Hill Speaks at Law Center

October 7, 2011 — Twenty years ago, Professor Anita Hill appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the sexual harassment allegations she brought against then Supreme Court associate justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill spoke here yesterday at a conference called “Context and Consequences: The Hill-Thomas Hearings Twenty Years Later.”

The 1991 Anita Hill Legal Team The 1991 Anita Hill Legal Team

Hill asked conference-goers to look at the photo of her legal team (right) that appeared on the back of their programs. “These individuals continue to inspire me,” she said. “When we undertook what we did 20 years ago we had no inkling at all that these issues would continue to resonate.”

The conference, organized by Professor Emma Coleman Jordan (who, along with Professor Susan Deller Ross, was part of Hill’s legal team in 1991), included a conversation between Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, another member of Hill’s team, and Emerson College Professor Carole Simpson, who was the ABC network news anchor during the hearings.

“Anita Hill changed America,” said Simpson, who admitted she wore a button in support of Hill under her lapel when she was on air.

Other panels examined the burden of history in a post-race era, gender vs. race in the 2008 Democratic primary, and 21st-century women’s parity in public life and in the workplace. Georgetown Law professor and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton appeared at the conference to discuss women, leadership and the politics of gender with NPR’s Michel Martin.

Hill closed the event by discussing what the conference — and the last 20 years — have meant to her. She is grateful she could continue teaching, she said: “That was not always a foregone conclusion because there were of course individuals that in the early years after the hearings wanted to strip me of my job and my tenure.” And she is encouraged by the more than 20,000 letters and e-mails she has received that tell her “there are so many people out there who continue to believe in equality…”

Hill said she could not be happier than she is right now. “Because I know that [my] testimony — no matter what anyone says or no matter who sits on the bench today — I know that testimony was not in vain. Thank you so much for giving me that affirmation.”

-- Anne Cassidy

A webcast of the conference can be seen here.

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