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In August 1975, after being arrested for breaking and entering, as well as larceny, Joann Little, a 20-year-old African American woman in Beaufort, North Carolina, killed a deputy sheriff in self-defense after he attempted to rape her. Little fled but was later arrested and put on trial for first-degree murder. The Joann Little Defense Committee was established by the Prisoner Solidarity Committee, a unit of the Workers World Party, which organized rallies, marches, petitioning and more in major cities across the country, in hopes of bringing awareness to Little’s case and expedient justice in the form of a dismissal and release. Other branches of the WWP (including Philadelphia), the Winston-Salem, North Carolina branch of the Black Panther Party, and many other organization joined in calling for the release of Little and for action around women’s rights, racial and sexual inequality in the criminal justice system, police brutality, and capital punishment, among other things. On August 22, 1975, over a thousand people demonstrated outside the courthouse where Little was being tried; that day a jury declared Joann Little not guilty to much celebration.
More recently, comparisons have been made between Little’s case and that of Cyntoia Brown, who spent 15 years in jail for a death resulting from self-defense. She was granted clemency on January 7, 2019, by Governor Bill Haslam.
“Cyntoia Brown - Free at Last!” International Action Center, 18 Aug. 2019, iacenter.org/2019/08/14/cyntoia-brown-free-at-last/.
“Guide to the Joan Little Collection, 1973-1975 and Undated.” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/littlejoan/.
Pratt, Minnie Bruce. “A Look Back at the Joann Little Case.” Workers World, 9 Mar. 2006, www.workers.org/2006/us/joann-little-0316/.