Title

Minority Rules: How Being Black Saved Joan Little’s Life and Unified Feminism

Presenter Information

David Baker

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

For Joan Little, the trial for the murder of her jailor at the Beaufort County Jail in North Carolina was a matter of life and death. But by the time of her acquittal in 1975, her victory influenced many more people. While remembered primarily as a civil rights case, "Minority Rules" demonstrates how by winning a case primarily focused on southern racism, Joan Little was able to strike an even bigger blow against sexual violence that up to that point white feminists had been unable to deliver, and, in doing so, Little and her supporters demonstrated to the world the centrality of African-American women to the fight against sexism.

In order to explore the importance of Joan Little to the unification of the white and black feminists, I utilize primary sources such as newspaper articles , trial proceedings, initiatives, and interviews. With these I show how Joan Little’s trial brought together black women's rights advocates. Secondary sources provide context for my work, giving me insight into the state of feminism and the sexual-violence movement in the 1970s. These sources, gathered from the Mansfield Library, internet databases, and my university sponsored research trip to the University of North Carolina, allow me to synthesize the implications of Ms. Little’s movement with the chronology of neo-feminism and demonstrate the depth of her impact on women’s rights.

While Joan Little’s trial has been documented quite extensively, little has been done to give it significance in the context of black-white feminist relations in the 70s and 80s. This project will demonstrate that significance and attempt to place it at the center of the feminist shift toward racial integration.

Category

Social Sciences

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Minority Rules: How Being Black Saved Joan Little’s Life and Unified Feminism

UC 330

For Joan Little, the trial for the murder of her jailor at the Beaufort County Jail in North Carolina was a matter of life and death. But by the time of her acquittal in 1975, her victory influenced many more people. While remembered primarily as a civil rights case, "Minority Rules" demonstrates how by winning a case primarily focused on southern racism, Joan Little was able to strike an even bigger blow against sexual violence that up to that point white feminists had been unable to deliver, and, in doing so, Little and her supporters demonstrated to the world the centrality of African-American women to the fight against sexism.

In order to explore the importance of Joan Little to the unification of the white and black feminists, I utilize primary sources such as newspaper articles , trial proceedings, initiatives, and interviews. With these I show how Joan Little’s trial brought together black women's rights advocates. Secondary sources provide context for my work, giving me insight into the state of feminism and the sexual-violence movement in the 1970s. These sources, gathered from the Mansfield Library, internet databases, and my university sponsored research trip to the University of North Carolina, allow me to synthesize the implications of Ms. Little’s movement with the chronology of neo-feminism and demonstrate the depth of her impact on women’s rights.

While Joan Little’s trial has been documented quite extensively, little has been done to give it significance in the context of black-white feminist relations in the 70s and 80s. This project will demonstrate that significance and attempt to place it at the center of the feminist shift toward racial integration.