Various places: various publishers, 1975.
In August 1974, Joan Little escaped from the Beaufort County Jail in Washington, North Carolina, where she was being held for breaking and entering. The body of guard Clarence Alligood, stabbed with an icepick, was discovered on Little’s bunk, naked from the waist down, with semen on his leg. Little turned herself in the following week, claiming that she had killed Alligood in self-defense when he attempted to rape her. She was charged with capital murder, which carried a mandatory death sentence. Little’s case attracted the interest of the civil rights, feminist, and anti-death-penalty movements, in intersecting and sometimes conflicting ways. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Organization for Women both offered support, as did the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which broke with Little over her reluctance to use the funds raised in her defense on marches: “You don’t need to agitate the way you did in the ‘60s. In my case, people should deal with reality.” Rosa Parks co-founded the Detroit chapter of the Joan Little Defense Committee, and members of Congress, including Shirley Chisholm, called on the Justice Department to ensure Little a fair trial. In August 1975, Little became the first woman in United States history to be acquitted of murder on the grounds that the use of deadly force was justified in resisting sexual assault. This group of materials includes five items produced in the months before Little’s 1975 trial. Joan Little pronounced her name “Jo Ann,” and her name appeared variously in print as Joan, Joann, and Joanne throughout the coverage of the trial. The materials offer a survey of the way that Little’s story was pitched to different audiences, from the respectability politics of JET Magazine, which pictures a smiling Little with her pet dog, and emphasizes her calm demeanor and work ethic, to the Marxist analysis of Angela Davis’s essay, “Joann Little: The Dialectics of Rape,” which locates Little’s experience in a history of racial and sexual terrorism. 1. Simms, Gregory. “Joan Little: Fights to Avoid Death Sentence” (cover story). JET Magazine XLVIII:7. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, May 8, 1975. Illustrated throughout text, 20-24. 2. “Support Joan Little” flyer. Student Coalition Against Racism, University of California, Berkeley. 11 x 8.5 inches, dated in ink: June 14, 1975. Printed slightly off-center, text shaved at left margin. 3. “Free Joan Little! Drop All the Charges!” flyer. July 14 Committee to Free Joan Little, Berkeley. 11 x 8.5 inches, dated in ink: June 29, 1975. 4. Davis, Angela, et al. Save Joann Little. Oakland: Women’s Press Collective, . Single volume, measuring 8.5 x 5.5 inches: . Original poetry by Little, an interview with an unnamed activist (“b,g.”) on the ground in North Carolina, Angela Davis’s “Joann Little: The Dialectics of Rape,” and a list of “Demands of Women from Raleigh Prison.” Illustrated throughout text. Ink notes “.50” to front wrapper and “1.00” to flyleaf. 5. “Free Joanne Little!” pinback button. National Student Coalition Against Racism. 1.75 inches in diameter, . A compelling collection, reflecting the significance of the Little trial to a range of American audiences.