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Sun, 05.09.1897

Louise Little, Activist born

Louise Little

*Louise Little was born on this date in 1897.  She was a Black activist.

Louise Helen Langdon was born in La Digue, St. Andrew, Grenada, to Edith Langdon, the daughter of Jupiter and Mary Jane Langdon, "liberated Africans" who were captured from Nigeria.  They were freed from the slave ship by the Royal Navy and then settled in the Grenadian village of La Digue, one of six children of the Langdons.  When she was 11 years old, Edith was raped by a Scottish man named Edward Norton, resulting in Louise, her only child.  

Young Langdon was raised by her grandparents, Jupiter and Mary Jane, until he died in 1901 and 1916.  She was educated in a local Anglican school and was fluent in English, French, and Grenadian Creole French.  After her grandmother's death, she emigrated from Grenada in 1917 to Montreal, where her uncle Edgerton Langdon introduced her to Garveyism and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

Through the UNIA in Montreal, she met Earl Little, a craftsman and lay minister from Reynolds, Georgia. The couple married on May 10, 1919.  The following year they moved to Philadelphia and Omaha, Nebraska, in 1921. Earl and Louise had seven children together: Wilfred, Hilda, Philbert, Malcolm, Reginald, Wesley, and Yvonne.  While in Omaha, she became the secretary and "branch reporter" of the UNIA's local chapter, sending news of local UNIA activities, led by Earl, to Negro World; they inculcated self-reliance and Black pride in their children.  Their 4th child Malcolm later said that white violence killed four of his father's brothers.  Another son, Wilfred, later remembered that Louise "received letters from the movement leaders thanking her for the work she had done and praising her for her devotion to the cause."  

Because of Ku Klux Klan threats‍, ‌Earl's UNIA activities were said to be "spreading trouble"‌the family relocated in 1926 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and shortly thereafter to Lansing, Michigan. There the family was frequently harassed by the Black Legion, a white racist group. When the family home burned in 1929, Earl accused the Black Legion.  In 1931, Earl died in what was officially ruled a streetcar accident, though Louise believed the Black Legion had murdered Earl. Rumors that white racists were responsible for Earl's death were widely circulated and were very disturbing to Louise and their children.  After a dispute with creditors, Louise received a life insurance benefit (nominally $1,000‍—‌about $17,000 in 2020 dollars) in payments of $18 per month; the issuer of another, larger policy refused to pay, claiming her husband Earl had committed suicide.  

Louise rented out part of her garden to make ends meet, and her sons hunted game.  During the 1930s, white Seventh-day Adventists witnessed the Little family; later on, Louise Little and her son Wilfred were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1937, a man Louise had been dating‍—‌marriage had seemed a possibility‍ ‌vanished from her life when she became pregnant with his child, Robert.  In late 1938 she had a nervous breakdown and was committed to Kalamazoo State Hospital. The children were separated and sent to foster homes.   Little was institutionalized at the Kalamazoo Mental Hospital from 1939 through 1963.  

Her son Malcolm‍ was imprisoned and released and rose to distinction as Malcolm X, a leading minister of the Nation of Islam‍, ‌joined his siblings in securing her release from the hospital. She lived with her surviving family and descendants for the rest of her life. Most of her children lived and died in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Louise Helen Norton Little died on June 22, 1989. 

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