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Exclusive: Finding Your Roots features Anita Hill on her optimism and humble Oklahoma beginnings

Anita Hill
Anita Hill’s journey from rural Oklahoma to where she is now is a fascinating reveal for Finding Your Roots. Pic credit: PBS

In a new episode of the PBS series, legal scholar Anita Hill and activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham are on journeys of discovery with host Dr. Henry Louis Gates.

Gates takes Ms. Hill back to a small town in Oklahoma as they examine her family trees on the eighth season of the award-winning PBS show Finding Your Roots.

In the second episode, Monsters & Critics has an exclusive preview showing Ms. Hill sharing her mother’s vision for her and her siblings.

In the clip, Anita talks about growing up in rural Oklahoma and how her mother raised her to believe in the future, possibilities, and the chance to go to college, which paved the way for Ms. Hill to succeed and reach outstanding academic achievements in her life.

Later, she learns of an ancestor listed in the U.S. census when most Black people were not typically registered in the official census.

Exclusive preview of Anita Hill’s recollections as a child

In the clip, Henry Louis Gates is moved by Anita’s humble beginnings and tells of how her mother had a vision for her and her siblings.

He said, “Anita was born in the tiny town of Okmulgee, Oklahoma, the youngest of 13 siblings. Her parents were farmers, and she was raised without running water or indoor plumbing until she was 12 years old. Even so, she wasn’t limited by her circumstances. Quite the opposite.”

Ms. Hill shared that her beginnings were “isolated” yet did not feel that way. 

Noting her mother had a strong vision of what the future might hold, she said, “It was isolated, but it didn’t feel isolated. I had my siblings. And my family believed in the future, my mother in particular. My mother was this person who said, ‘I want to make sure every one of my children has a chance to go to college.'”

About Anita Hill

Famous for her stand against Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court Judge in 1991, attorney Anita Hill bravely testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when she served him as an advisor.

Hill’s testimony was heard by 14 white men, with then-Senator Joe Biden aggressively questioning her during a televised live hearing.

Ms. Hill is a lawyer and educator and the first tenured Black professor at the University of Oklahoma in 1989. Currently, she is a professor of social policy, law and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Brandeis University. 

About Finding Your Roots

Henry Louis Gates
Henry Louis Gates takes famous people on emotional journeys on Finding Your Roots. Pic credit: PBS

Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. illuminates the past lives of each subject through archived genealogy records with a team of researchers.

Celebrities and notables from all walks of life sit down with Dr. Gates and learn that their family tree holds secrets and surprises they could not have ever known. The PBS series is a fascinating dive into interesting people’s lives, where revelations elicit strong emotional reactions. 

Now in season eight, viewers will see Dr. Gates share the ancestry of notable guests along with Ms. Hill, including Pamela Adlon, Erin Burnett, Amy Carlson, Terry Crews, Tony Danza, Kathryn Hahn, Regina King, Nathan Lane, John Leguizamo, Damon Lindelof, Mario Lopez, Leslie Odom, Jr., André Leon Talley, Melissa Villaseñor and Lena Waithe.

Finding Your Roots airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on PBS.

April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and...read more

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