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Sun, 08.21.1921

Matthew Little, Activist, and Businessman born

Matthew Little

Matthew Little was born on this date in 1921. He was a Black businessman and a prominent Civil Rights advocate.

William Matthew Little was born in Washington, N.C., the first city in America named after George Washington.  He was the son of Arthur and Bessie Little. His grandfather was a farmer, and his father was an engineer in a plant that made corn and wheat products.

As a youth, Matthew aspired to become a doctor. Shortly after graduating from North Carolina A&T University in 1943 with Biological Science and Chemistry, Little was drafted into the military.  After World War II, racism in the South stopped him from getting into medical school, although he was academically qualified.  Severely saddened, he moved to Minneapolis, leaving the formal version of segregation in the South behind him.

After arriving in Minneapolis, Little worked as a waiter in a hotel and for the post office. When he sought a position as a firefighter, racial discrimination again prevented his hiring, and he learned more lessons about the North. He not only passed all three required tests--academic, physical, and oral interview; he still holds the Minneapolis Firefighter record for carrying a man on his back for 100 yards.

Eventually, he started and ran a successful landscaping business for over 30 years. For decades, Little has been active in civil rights efforts as president of the Minnesota chapter of the NAACP.  He organized busloads of Minnesota activists for the 1963 March On Washington. He has rallied for the continued support of affirmative action and desegregation of the Minnesota Public Schools.  In 2000, he supported the NAACP lawsuit against the government of Minnesota, which charged the public school system with failing to provide an equal education to all children. Little supported busing as the best solution to the problem of school inequality, which placed him at odds with some local Black politicians and white ones.

Little cultivated a strong relationship and influence with the black and business communities and persuaded the Minnesota Vikings management to hire Dennis Green as its first Black head coach.

In recognition of his accomplishments and contributions to his community, Little has received numerous awards, including an honorary doctor of law degree from the University Of Minnesota Law School in May 2002. The father of four children, Matthew Little, died on January 26, 2014.



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