At 35, Anita Hill was thrust into the national spotlight when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her supervisor at two federal agencies, of sexual harassment. Though Thomas would ultimately be confirmed, the 1991 hearings – conducted by an all-white-male Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden – sparked a national reckoning on gender equality and sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Born the youngest of 13 children to an Oklahoma farming family, Hill earned her degree from Yale Law School and started her legal career in Washington, D.C. shortly thereafter. She served under Thomas at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Hill was the university’s first tenured African American professor, but left amid ongoing calls for her resignation surrounding her testimony.
The scandal’s ripple effects included a spike in harassment reports and more women running for office. 1992 became known as the “Year of the Woman” when a historic number of female politicians were elected to Congress – nearly doubling their seats in the House and Senate. Over the three decades since, Hill’s powerful testimony has become an important touchstone in America’s ongoing struggle with gender-based violence, revisited with new vigor in the wake of #MeToo and the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.
Hill currently serves as professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Brandeis University and remains a sought-after public speaker, especially on the topic of sexual harassment. In addition to numerous articles advocating for women’s rights and social justice, Hill is the author of the 1997 autobiography Speaking Truth to Power, 2011’s Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home and 2021’s Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence.
In an interview with Elle on the books of her life, Hill recommended work by José Saramago, Barack Obama, and Tayari Jones. Find her favorites below, and complement with the reading lists of famous feminist activists Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Emma Watson, Gloria Steinem, and Malala Yousafzai.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
Blindness by José Saramago
The Agitators by Dorothy Wickenden
“I’ve given this book as a gift to both adults and children. The story is inspiring, and the illustration [by Vashti Harrison] is magnificent.” -AH
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln: A Novel by Stephen L. Carter
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Song Yet Sung by James McBride
Flat-Footed Truths: Telling Black Women’s Lives by Patricia Bell-Scott and Juanita Johnson-Bailey
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange (also rec’d by Alice Walker)
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
“Read it because it’s a moving story about sisterhood (I have 5 sisters, and, in addition, was a sister to 7 brothers) and friendship (I have friendships in profusion). I treasure both relationships. And read it because it’s beautifully written.” -AH