The new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture barely mentions hard-line conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas but has plenty of space for the woman who accused him of sexual harassment at his 1991 Senate confirmation, Anita Hill. The disparagement of Thomas is particularly egregious because October is the 25th anniversary of Thomas sitting on the court.
Thomas, only the second black person to sit on the court, (after Justice Thurgood Marshall), has a storied history; he grew up dirt-poor in segregated deep south of coastal Georgia and was mocked by other blacks for his Geechee heritage. Sent to live with his grandparents at age seven, his grandfather inculcated values of hard work and , perseverance, telling Thomas, “Old Man Can’t is dead. I helped bury him.”
Thomas has written twice as many opinions over the past two terms as any other justice. Tom Goldstein, a liberal Supreme Court lawyer and founder of the SCOTUS blog, has written: “No other member of the Court is so independent in his thinking . . . I disagree profoundly with Justice Thomas’s views on many questions, but if you believe that Supreme Court decision-making should be a contest of ideas rather than power, so that the measure of a Justice’s greatness is his contribution of new and thoughtful perspectives that enlarge the debate, then Justice Thomas is now our greatest Justice.” Mark Tushnet, who strongly opposed Thomas being placed on the court, admitted in A Court Divided that “what [Thomas] has done on the Court is certainly more interesting and distinctive than what Scalia has done and, I think, has a greater chance of making an enduring contribution to constitutional law.”
Yet Thomas is barely mentioned in the museum; two examples include: “In 1991 Anita Hill charged Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment” and Anita Hill accused a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment.”
Hill, on the other hand, has her photo prominently displayed; multiple quotes mention her. A vignette honoring blacks in the 1990’s mentions her, not Thomas.
“If you believe that Supreme Court decision-making should be a contest of ideas rather than power … then Justice Thomas is now our greatest Justice.”
Tom Goldstein, a liberal Supreme Court lawyer and founder of the SCOTUS blog
Thomas’ confirmation hearing was the occasion of Hill’s turgid testimony, egged on by the nefarious liberal senator Howard Metzenbaum, who was suspected of feeding Hill’s ridiculous story to National Public Radio. Even worse, Metzenbaum shut women out who had worked for Thomas and wanted to testify on his behalf. Metzenbaum snapped, that the Judiciary Committee “could stipulate that all of that testimony will be supportive of Clarence Thomas,” and concluded that “I don’t know why there’s any reason to have to hear it.”