Indiana Little

From Bhamwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Indiana Tuggle Little (born January 15, 1897 in Wyatt, Georgia; died September 22, 1970 in Birmingham) was Black suffragist in 1920s Birmingham.

Tuggle was the 8th of 9 children born to George and Harriet Tuggle, who were farm laborers in Georgia. She attended school through 7th grade. She married Terrell Little, a World War I veteran, in 1918. The couple had two daughters before moving to Birmingham in 1923. Terrell took a job at a foundry as a riveter and rented a house at 305 48th Street South in East Avondale. Indiana has been identified as a teacher or social worker in news accounts, but listed only her work as a maid on census forms.

During the 1920s, county registrars met only irregularly to "open their books" for new registrations, and it had been announced that Jefferson County registrar Luther Bowen and his staff would be doing so during the week of January 1822, 1926 in Birmingham and the following week in Bessemer. On Monday morning January 18 Little led a group of applicants (reported variously as "25" or as "many hundreds", and mostly women) to register to vote at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

A contemporary account quoted her statement to registrar Luther Bowen: "I am a free-born citizen of America and by the fourteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution I shall not be denied the right to vote because of race, color, or sex, and I will not move until I have been registered."

According to one account, Bowen told her that they would not be able to qualify under the educational test provided in the Alabama Constitution of 1901, and Little retorted by shouting that, "it is only red tape to keep us from voting," and that, "we demand our rights as American citizens". Bowen was quoted by the Birmingham News as saying that voting should be, "a white man's business" and that "too many" African Americans had been seeking to register.

In another interview, Bowen claimed to have allowed the applicants to fill out the proper forms which he would turn over to be graded by the board of registrars, and that if they were found to be qualified they would then be registered to vote, as many other Black citizens had already done.

Courthouse officials arrested Little for, "being boisterous and raising a disturbance in the county court house,". The charge was changed to "vagrancy" and "resisting arrest" when she was booked into the Jefferson County Jail. She was released on $300 bond by Judge H. B. Abernethy. Ohio Bell, president of the Ex-Soldiers' Cooperative Association, led a collection to pay her bond.

In an affidavit, Little claimed to have been "beat over the head unmercifully and ...forced upon the officer's demand to yield to him in an unbecoming manner." She named Chief Deputy Henry S. Hill as her assailant. County officials claimed to have insufficient manpower to investigate her allegation.

It has been suggested that Little's march was planned to coincide with the arrival of William B. Poole of the U.S. Justice Department, who had been invited by District Attorney C. B. Kennamer to review the voting registration process in Jefferson County. Poole disavowed any specific federal investigation into registration drives such as Little's.

Little's action inspired follow-up marches that were equally unsuccessful. She also inspired Bell's organization of former soldiers to petition Governor William Brandon to protect the rights of Black citizens to be qualified as voters due to their status as having served the country in war (a provision of the 1901 Constitution intended to further disenfranchise African Americans). Brandon declined.

Little's headstone at Shadow Lawn Memorial Park

Little was finally registered to vote in 1957, five years after her husband's death. She remained active as a community leader and as a Sunday School and Training Union teacher at 23rd Street Baptist Church.

Little was diagnosed in early 1970 with multiple myeloma and died at Montclair Baptist Medical Center in September of that year. She was survived by her daughter Lessie Tellis. She was buried at Shadow Lawn Memorial Gardens under a marker reading "Not my will but thine be done," a quote from Christ's prayer at the Mount of Olives in the Gospel of Luke.


  • Loder-Jackson, Tondra L. (2015) Schoolhouse Activists: African American Educators and the Long Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. State University of New York Press ISBN 9781438458618
  • Gidlow, Liette (2017) Resistance After Ratification: The Nineteenth Amendment, African American Women, and the Problem of Female Disenfranchisement After 1920. Alexander Street.
  • Staples, Brent (February 2, 2019) "When the Suffrage Movement Sold Out to White Supremacy." The New York Times
  • Royster, Briana Adline (2019) "Biography of Indiana T. Little, 1897–1970". Biographical Database of Black Women Suffragists. Alexander Street.

External links