People & Stories Oral History Project: Dr. Olivia J. Hooker

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker turned 100 in 2015. She is a fascinating, brilliant, fun person, and White Plains is lucky to count her among its residents. Her life started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where her father owned a successful department store. His store and the neighborhood known as The Black Wall Street were destroyed in what Dr. Hooker called “the terrible catastrophe in Tulsa.”

“Other people called it the Tulsa Riot. It really wasn't a riot–we were the victims,” said Dr. Hooker. The Greenwood district of Tulsa was devastated by the racist violence, and news of the injustice was under-reported in the rest of America. In this oral history, Dr. Hooker speaks about her father's tour of the east coast, where he made public speeches to raise awareness and funds for the “10,000 people who were made homeless.” Carrying on her father's legacy, Dr. Hooker founded the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, which sought reparations and recognition for survivors. This is just one example of the courage and sense of justice that drive Dr. Hooker. Listen to her oral history and read below to learn more.

In 1945, Dr. Hooker became the first African-American women to serve in active duty in the US Coast Guard. She was recognized for this achievement at the 2015 US Coast Guard induction ceremony by President Barack Obama. The USCG also honored her by creating the Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Training Center at their headquarters in Washington D.C.

A truly dynamic person, Dr. Hooker also discusses her professional achievements in this oral history. She holds a PhD in Psychology and spent many years helping young people in schools and communities. Her professional expertise and personal activism came together with her work for the White Plains-Greenburgh NAACP. She helped students who were being under-served and mistreated by local schools receive the education they deserved.

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Dr. Hooker during her active duty in the US Coast Guard.

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Olivia Hooker and Anita Cooke aboard the dry-land ship “USS Neversail,” during their training at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Station, Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, New York, 1945.

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At the dedication of the Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Training Center at USCG Headquarters in Washington D.C.

All photos from Dr. Olivia Hooker Fan Page.

Categories: History and Oral History.