27 Years Ago, 1600 African-American Women Signed A NYT Ad Supporting Anita Hill

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Image via Twitter and Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images.

The anniversary couldn’t be more timely

As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is currently being attacked for sharing her story of sexual assault involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it’s also the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Anita Hill hearings. The all-too-apt timing of these two events shows just how much has changed in the last three decades as well as how much has stayed the same.

This morning, best-selling author Tayari Jones shared a piece of history that illustrates these contrasts in an amazing way: a full-page New York Times ad taken out by 1,600 African-American women in support of Anita Hill as she testified against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court nomination, citing his repeated sexual harassment.

Jones wrote, “27 years ago, 1600 black women took out a full page ad in the NYT to show support for Anita Hill. I was 20 years old. I put $25 toward the price of the ad and signed my name.”

She continued her thread, explaining what the moment in history meant to her.

“I wish I could remember who asked me to join the effort to gather signatures and raise the money to pay for the ad. But i remember that she said, you don’t have to pay to sign your name, but this is a moment for you to give money, and make a sacrifice, to show it matters to you. At the time, $25 was a significant donation. I remember I had to balance my checkbook afterwards. I just really wish I could remember who she was. She gave me a chance to be part of history and she taught me a major life lesson.”

Jones is the author of An American Marriage, which was a 2018 Oprah Book Club pick as well as on President Barack Obama’s 2018 summer reading list.

Twitter responded to the post with their amazement regarding the ad as well as their own remembrances.

Anita Hill spoke out in the New York Times opinion section yesterday, writing that the Senate Judiciary Committee has learned little in the decades between Thomas’s hearing and Kavanaugh’s hearing, despite plenty of teachable moments. She also writes of how important it is that we get it right:

“It’s impossible to miss the parallels between the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing of 2018 and the 1991 confirmation hearing for Justice Clarence Thomas. In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts.”

“With the current heightened awareness of sexual violence comes heightened accountability for our representatives,” she continued. “To do better, the 2018 Senate Judiciary Committee must demonstrate a clear understanding that sexual violence is a social reality to which elected representatives must respond.

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