Dr. Olivia Hooker, Tulsa Race Riot Survivor & First Black Woman Coast Guard Passes At 103

(Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard News)

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker, the first black woman to join the U.S. Coast Guard, a professor at Fordham University and one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, passed the day before Thanksgiving at age 103 in White Plains, N.Y.

The U.S. Coast Guard shared its condolences for one of its own:

“It is with great sadness to learn of the passing of Dr. Olivia Hooker, 103, a pioneer in the history of women & minorities in the @USCG & the Nation. On behalf of the #USCG, we’d like to extend our sincere condolences to Dr. Hooker’s family.”

Hooker lived in the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa Oklahoma, also known as Black Wall Street, which was home to thriving Black-owned businesses and over 10,000 well-to-do Black families. It was one of the most prominent concentrations of African-American businesses in the United States during the early 20th century.

People would watch movies at the Black-owned Bill Williams Dreamland Theater.
People would shop for their essentials at Black-owned D. L. Hookers General Stores.
People would get treated for health issues at Dr. A. C. Jackson, an African-American Surgeon.
Many people would stay, have meetings and events at the Black-owned Stratford Hotel.
People would get ice cream, cakes and candy at Williams Confectionary.

That was until the massacre. Later called the Tulsa race riot of 1921, white residents massacred hundreds of black residents and torched the neighborhood within hours. The riot was one of the most devastating massacres in the history of U.S. race relations, destroying the once thriving Greenwood community.

Many say the massacre started when a young, Black man, who was getting off the elevator, tripped and grabbed hold of a white woman to keep his balance.

Back in those days it was understood that Black men couldn’t even look at a white woman in the eye, let alone touch her in any way. Rumors spread and white supremacists attacked.

About 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property ($30 million in 2017).

Some blacks claimed that policemen had joined the mob; others said that National Guardsmen fired a machine gun into the black community and a plane dropped sticks of dynamite.

In an eyewitness account discovered in 2015, Greenwood attorney Buck Colbert Franklin described watching a dozen or more private planes drop burning balls of turpentine on Greenwood’s rooftops.

“I think I only went downtown one time,” recalls Hooker of the beauty of her old neighborhood. “Because we had everything we needed right in our neighborhood.”

“The most shocking was seeing people you’d never done anything to irritate would just, took it upon themselves to destroy your property because they didn’t want you to have those things.”

After surviving the attack, the Hookers moved to Topeka, Kansas, then Columbus, Ohio. She graduated high school in 1937, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio State University and…

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