Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement

By Bettye Collier-Thomas; V. P. Franklin | Go to book overview

Chapter 14

“Joanne Is You and Joanne Is Me”
A Consideration of African American Women and
the “Free Joan Little” Movement, 1974–75

Genna Rae McNeil

Joanne Little, she's my sister
Joanne Little, she's our mama…
Joanne's the woman
Who's gonna carry your child…
Joanne is you and
Joanne is me
Our prison is
This whole society.

—Bernice Johnson Reagon1

Joan Little, a twenty-year-old inmate in North Carolina's Beaufort County jail, stabbed Clarence Alligood. And in the early morning hours of August 27, 1974, she ran. About 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighing barely 120 pounds, Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann) Little was black, female, and poor. Clarence Alligood, who was closer to 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds, was Little's sixty-two-year-old white jailer. Little would later explain that the stabbing of Alligood was an act of resistance and self-defense. Moreover, she insisted that when she fled the jail she did not realize Alligood was dying. Little later testified that Alligood had come to the Beaufort County jail cell, where Little was being held awaiting disposition of a breaking and entering charge, and there her jailer, Alligood, forced her to perform oral sex. Alligood coerced her with an icepick, Little recounted. She

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