Anita Hill wins PEN award

March 29, 2019

Anita Hill (AAAS, LGLS, The Heller School, WMGS), has been named the winner of the Courage Award from Poets, Essayists, Novelists (PEN) America.

PEN America is an organization that aims to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide, with a focus on the combination of literature and human rights. According the PEN website, its mission is to “unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.” The Courage Award recognizes activists for free expression.

Hill was chosen for her Senate testimony in 1991—where she said she was sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—her work as the chair of the Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality and her work as a university professor, according to an article in The New York Times.

“Hill stepped alone into the glare of the public spotlight to call out abuses that others insisted be forgotten or overlooked,’’ said Suzanne Nossel, the PEN America CEO in a press release by PEN America. ‘‘She has devoted her life since then to teaching, writing and speaking out — in the process, helping to catalyze a global movement that is essential to the achievement of equality.’’

Hill received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1980, after which she began her career in a private practice in Washington, D.C. She also worked at the United States Education Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Hill was the first African American to teach at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, teaching contracts and commercial law, in 1989. Hill also received Honorary Degrees from Simmons College and Dillard University in 2001, Smith College in 2003, Lasell College in 2007, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2010 and Mount Ida College in 2013.

In 2017, Hill became the Chair of the Hollywood entertainment industry’s Commission to Eliminate Sexual Harassment and Advance Equality in the Workplace. She works to establish better practices and policies framework for addressing workplace abuses and discrimination as well as create equitable work environments in the industry.

Hill is also helping to spread “The Gender/Race Imperative,” a project aimed to increase awareness of Title IX, a law mandating equal education opportunities for women. Additionally, Hill served on the 2012 strategic planning financial task force at Brandeis.
Currently Hill teaches courses on gender, race, social policy and legal history at Brandeis. She is also the subject of Freida Lee Mock’s documentary “Anita,” which premiered in January 2013 at the Sundance Film festival. Among other awards Hill received are the UC Merced Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance in 2016, the Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship Award in 2005, and the Louis P. and Evelyn Smith First Amendment Award. Hill will collect her Courage Award at a May gala hosted by comedian John Oliver.

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