2021 marks the 30th anniversary of Professor Anita Hill’s testimony of sexual harassment at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Anita spoke her truth in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a televised hearing, and explained the sexual harassment she faced from Thomas when they worked together. With this testimony, Anita transformed the world and catalyzed a movement. We’re still struck by Anita’s bravery, and seeing cultural changes in the aftermath: from politics, to the #MeToo movement, and creating a safer workplace.
The podcast “Because of Anita” honors Professor Hill with a four-part investigative series, delving into the impact this testimony continues to have on conversations, politics, journalism, safety, race, gender, violence, and the world. Throughout the episodes, Professor Hill and guests will discuss her journey, what has changed in the world, and what hasn’t.
Anita’s journey and testimony
Anita studied psychology then graduated Yale with a law degree. In 1981, Anita joined the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, working as Clarence Thomas’ legal advisor. Anita experienced sexual harassment, which escalated after she declined to go out with him. After Clarence was appointed chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1982 and Anita continued working with him, the harassment continued. Anita found the work environment untenable and began teaching at universities, eventually becoming the first tenured African American professor at the University of Oklahoma.
It wasn’t until Clarence was nominated for the Supreme Court by George H. W. Bush that Anita spoke up. Clarence was confirmed. Clarence denied Anita’s claims, and people thought she was lying. But her stance started a movement.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford addressed the Judiciary Committee in 2018 when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court. Dr. Ford alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her over 36 years ago. In this series, Hill and Dr. Ford will have conversations about their experiences, the grief and anger experienced, and what’s possible for the future.
The podcast’s special guests
The New York Times’ Dr. Salamishah Tillet and co-founder of The Meteor Cindi Leive host the series. In the first episode, Dr. Tillet and Cindi unpack Hill’s testimony and speak with lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw, who worked on Anita’s legal team. Investigative journalist Jane Mayer (The New Yorker) covered Thomas’ hearings and helped expose its flaws. We’ll also hear from Emmy Award-winning actress, activist, and producer Kerry Washington, who played Hill in HBO’s Confirmation.
The hosts will also share how Hill changed their lives. Dr. Tillet covers popular culture, gender, sexuality, race, and politics for The New York Times and is an activist, cultural critic, and scholar. She is the Henry Rutgers Professor of African American Studies and Creative Writing at Rutgers University – Newark. Dr. Tillet expressed how Hill has influenced her as a rape survivor. Leive is an award-winning journalist who previously worked as editor-in-chief of Glamour and Self magazines. Leive vividly recalls watching the hearing while working at Glamour in the 1990s.
“Because of Anita” will highlight voices and insight from a unique pool: Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, who ran for office after the hearings, and became the first-ever Black woman U.S. Senator; activist, author, and founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke; Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center; Drew Dixon, music producer who accused Russell Simmons of sexual assault; historian Dr. Barbara Ransby; and Irin Carmon, senior correspondent at New York Magazine who covers harassment cases.
“Professor Hill’s testimony was and remains an utterly transformative moment for American politics,” said Dr. Tillet. “She not only told her truth, but spoke for the millions of victims of gender-based violence, who, like myself, had yet to find their own voice. Her bravery is exemplary, her patriotism is exceptional. ‘Because of Anita’ gives us an opportunity to explore how her single act changed the world.” We’ll learn more about Anita in upcoming episodes.
“Because of Anita” is presented by Pineapple Street Studios and The Meteor. The first episode premieres on October 4.