Dr. Olivia Hooker, One Of The Last Survivors Of The Tulsa Race Riots, Dies At 103

Hooker was the first Black woman to enlist in the U.S Coast Guard.

Photo Credit: Twitter

| November 26 2018,

1:03 pm

Dr. Olivia Hooker, one of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots, has passed away at 103 years old. Hooker was also the first Black woman to join the U.S. Coast Guard in 1945.

The former professor and psychologist received her undergraduate degree from Ohio State University where she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and advocated for women serving in the Navy. Hooker earned a master's degree from the Teacher's College of Columbia University and became an elementary school teacher.

Years later, the educator tried to enlist for the Navy. She was rejected because she was Black. Three years after the Coast Guard created a reserve unit for women called the Spars, short for the Latin motto Semper Paratus meaning "always ready," Hooker was successfully admitted.

She became the first African-American to enroll and earned the distinction as the first Black female Coast Guard. The program disbanded in 1946, but she left ranking as a second class petty officer and won a Good Conduct Award.

The organization shared a tweet to express their condolences to her family.

In 1961, Hooker received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Rochester which propelled her work as a psychology professor at Fordham University. 

Several years ago she was invited to the White House where she was honored for her achievements by former President Barack Obama.

"She has been a professor and mentor to her students, a passionate advocate for Americans with disabilities, a psychologist counseling young children, a caregiver at the height of the AIDS epidemic, a tireless voice for justice and equality," he stated.

She is one of the few first-hand witnesses of the Tulsa Race Massacre that led to the destruction of Black Wall Street, a neighborhood full of successful Black-owned businesses. It was considered a gem for Black people, especially when contrasted with the living conditions suffered during the Jim Crow era.

The unrest, which lasted from May 31 to June 1, began when a Black man, Dick Rowland, was riding an elevator with a white woman named Sarah Page. Rowland, a shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting the elevator operator and later arrested.

Sensationalized reports surfaced that fueled a white mob to gather outside of the Tulsa County Courthouse in hopes of taking matters into their own hands. Black men went to the courthouse to protect Rowland, and white protestors stormed the local armory in response. The result was 48 hours of shootings, invasions and destruction of many Black homes and businesses.

Dr. Hooker, who was just 6 years old at the time of the riots, shared her family's experience in an interview with NPR:  

“It was May 31, 1921. At first, we saw a bunch of men with those big, pine torches come through the backyard,” she said. “I remember our mother put us under the table. She took the longest tablecloth she had to cover four children and told us not to say a word. It was a horrifying thing for a little girl that's only 6 years old.”

White men entered her family's home, destroyed her piano and later burned her father’s store. She recalled the shock of the riots.

“I guess the most shocking thing was seeing people, to whom you had never done anything to irritate, who just took it upon themselves to destroy your property because they didn't want you to have those things. And they were teaching you a lesson. Those were all new ideas to me,” she continued.

Dr. Hooker's legacy will forever be remembered. 


Now, check these out:

These Dallas-Fort Worth Heroes Knocked On Doors And Grabbed Mattresses To Save Apartment Tenants Trapped By Fire

People On Social Media Are Now Viewing This 'Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' Scene Very Differently

Wisconsin School District Teens In Viral Nazi Salute Photo Dodge Punishment On Grounds Of Free Speech