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Anita Hill To Receive the PEN Courage Award


Deborah K. Wilson, Chief Development Officer, PEN America

PEN announced professor, lawyer, equal rights advocate and chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality Anita Hill will receive this year’s PEN Courage Award. The award will be conferred in recognition of her singular role in challenging sexual harassment in the workplace and the attendant abuse of power, and a career spent combating the silencing force of sexism. The award, which honors dauntless exercises of free expression, will be presented May 21 at the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Deborah Wilson is the Chief Development Officer at PEN America.

By Deborah K. Wilson, Chief Development Officer, PEN America

“Anita Hill stepped alone into the glare of the public spotlight to call out abuses that others insisted be forgotten or overlooked. 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,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America.

“The award will be conferred in recognition of her singular role in challenging sexual harassment in the workplace and the attendant abuse of power, and a career spent combating the silencing force of sexism.” Deborah K Wilson

Deborah Wilson is the Chief Development Officer at PEN America.
Deborah Wilson is the Chief Development Officer at PEN America.

In her career as a university professor and scholar, Hill has been a steadfast champion of women’s rights. She is the author of two books (1997’s Speaking Truth to Power and 2011’s Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home) and numerous opinion pieces (including a New York Times piece entitled How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right.) In December 2017, Hill was appointed Chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, where she is leading an industry-wide effort to identify and establish best practices and solve problems related to harassment, bias, equality, and diversity in the entertainment community. Find out more about Anita Hill’s advocacy here »

At our May Gala, we are also honoring women’s rights champions and Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan, imprisoned for opposing the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and the female driving ban in the region, with the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. We are recognizing peerless investigative journalist Bob Woodward with the Literary Service Award and Scholastic Chairman and CEO Richard Robinson for his outstanding leadership in publishing. Comedian and political commentator John Oliver will host this year’s event. Find out more about the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala here »

In 1991, Hill served as a witness during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She gave her testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee of 14 white men and a global television audience. She described numerous instances of sexual harassment while working for the soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other women who had made similar allegations against Thomas were not called to testify. 

In her career as a university professor and scholar, Hill has been a steadfast champion of women’ rights. She joined the faculty of Brandeis University in 1998 and in 2015 was named University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies. She is the author of two books (1997’s Speaking Truth to Power and 2011’s Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home) and numerous opinion pieces (including a New York Times piece entitled “How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right,” published during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh). In December 2017, Hill was appointed Chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, which was established by a coalition of Hollywood studios, television networks, streaming services, music companies, talent agencies, trade associations, and unions. In this role, she is leading an industry-wide effort to identify and establish best practices and solve problems related to harassment, bias, equality, and diversity in the entertainment community.

In addition to Hill, PEN America will honor other women’s rights champions at its May Gala: Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan, imprisoned for opposing the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and the female driving ban in the region, will receive the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. Additionally, PEN America will recognize peerless investigative journalist Bob Woodward with the Literary Service Award and Scholastic Chairman and CEO Richard Robinson for his outstanding leadership in publishing. Past Courage Award honorees include student activists against gun violence (2018) and organizers of the Women’s March (2017). The Gala raises essential funds that fuel PEN America’s free expression advocacy efforts. Comedian and political commentator John Oliver will host this year’s event.

We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, May 21 at the PEN America Literary Gala, and consider supporting our dynamic cultural programming and critical free expression advocacy work. If you are unable to attend in person, please consider making a donation to support this inspiring event and our salient work.

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