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New Smithsonian hails accuser Anita Hill, barely mentions Clarence Thomasby Raffi Williams
People#BlackHistory

The new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture treats conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas like a mere footnote while heralding the woman who accused him of sexual harassment, Anita Hill.

Twenty-five years ago, Thomas became the second black Supreme Court Justice when he succeeded Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice.

Neither man's accomplishments as jurists on the high court get as much attention as Hill, though Marshall's work on a landmark case as a lawyer is recognized.

"The second most important black person in the United States after President Obama."

Mark Paoletta

Marshall was a liberal and a key figure of the Civil Rights era. Thomas, a conservative, opposed affirmative action because he said he believes it hurt his career.

"Absolutely the top black conservative. I'd say even the top conservative," said Mark Paoletta, a former lawyer in the George H. W. Bush White House, which nominated Thomas. 

But the Smithsonian's new museum gives Thomas less billing than singer James Brown.

Inside, the museum showcases the history of African Americans in the United States, covering the slave trade, the Civil Rights movement and even the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at the winter Olympics (speedskater Shani Davis, 2006 in Turin, Italy).

Hill, the woman who accused Thomas of sexual harassment at his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings, gets plenty of attention. She is featured in the museum's vignette to blacks in the 1990s and has her photo prominently shown along with multiple quotes about her.

Thomas disputed Hill's allegations and won confirmation, but his side of the story is mostly ignored in the exhibits. Museum officials acknowledged that Thomas has "very little presence" in any of the exhibitions. 

One of the few mentions of Thomas in the museum reads: "In 1991 Anita Hill charged Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment." 

WATCH  | Another mention of Thomas reads, "Anita Hill accused a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, of sexual harassment."

Here is Hill being featured in the vignette to blacks in the 1990s. Thomas is not featured in the short movie.

'Everyone got to watch them'

The museum also told Circa that they did not have a scholar or expert to do more on the controversial confirmation hearings.

We reached out to the Thomas family, but they did not want to weigh in.

While Thomas might have been a footnote in the museum, Paoletta, who helped the Bush White House with Thomas' confirmation, said the hearings were major news in the early 90s. "Everyone got to watch them -- anyone over 16 years old got to watch those things."