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‘Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words’ visits DPAC

| Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Emma Kirner

The moment Justice Thomas sits down in front of the camera, you know you’re in for a genuine story of triumph over injustice. Forget your politics, and leave behind your preconceived notions about the normally silent Justice; you’re about to hear him discuss his life story for a whole hour and 56 minutes.

As a prelude to the 2021 Tocqueville Lecture featuring U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the Debartolo Performing Arts Center screened the 2020 documentary “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words,” this past Friday. As the title suggests, the film is solely composed of the warm and intimate storytelling of the 73-year-old Supreme Court Justice and his wife, inspiring self-reflection and the introduction of new perspectives.

“Created Equal” chronicles Thomas’ life from his early upbringing in rural Georgia, to his present life as a Supreme Court Associate Justice in Washington D.C. As he begins discussing his childhood in “rural poverty” and “urban squalor” in Savannah, you begin to understand the long road that a young Thomas had in front of him. You’re immediately engaged in his story and start to wonder how this young, southern African American boy at the mercy of systemic injustice will come to preside over the highest form of law and justice in the United States. This intrigue sets the stage for the entire film.

While Thomas may be an excellent storyteller, it’s through the help of masterfully crafted behind-the-camera questions and the excellent selection of images and film roll that his story is able to truly come to life. Clarence Thomas is impressive, but like any of us, I’m not so sure he’s capable of sitting down for nearly two hours to tell his entire life story. This is where producers Michael and Gina Pack and their “unprecedented access” come into play, asking the perfect guiding questions to craft a wholehearted account of his life. Clarence Thomas’ firsthand account, coupled with the striking images of 1950s southern poverty and archival films from important historical events, including lengthy clips from his confirmation hearing, are integral to the direction of the film.

If you are hoping for greater insight into Thomas’ role and judicial philosophy on the Supreme Court, this film has little to offer. Instead, this film acts as much needed insight into the life and story of an often misunderstood man that continues to polarize those in the political sphere.

In a Q&A session with the producers following the screening, an elderly woman spoke up to share the immediate impact the film had on her previously negative opinion of Justice Thomas, regarding the allegations put forth by Anita Hill. For those of you who are unaware or simply too young to remember (like myself), Clarence Thomas faced allegations of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing, similar to Justice Kavanaugh, albeit much milder. Thomas’s personal account of what he once described as a “high-tech lynching” struck many in the audience.

So I ask you, step into the world of Clarence Thomas with an open mind, and let his story inspire you to strive for more. Feel grateful for all that you’ve been blessed with here at the University of Notre Dame, and always remember where you came from. Whether you’re a “fan” of Justice Thomas or not, I recommend anyone take a look at “Created Equal” to gain a rare and in-depth glimpse into the life of one of America’s most polarizing Supreme Court Justices.


Title: “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words”

Starring: Clarence Thomas

Director: Michael Pack

Genre: Documentary

If you like: “RBG,” “The Plot Against The President”

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

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