At 102 years old, Olivia J. Hooker is the last surviving member of Greenwood Tulsa Oklahoma, also known as Black Wall Street or Little Africa. During times of great economic success Hooker was the youngest daughter of a well to do Greenwood store owner, but in 1921, the Klu Klux Klan and the United States Military forces terrorized and dismantled the Greenwood neighborhood. Olivia and her family relocated to Ohio, where she pursued an education, received her PhD in Psychology, became the first African American woman to serve in the Coast Guard (during WWII), and took a career as a professor at Fordham University.
During the oil boom, economic success flooded the city of Tulsa in the 1900’s, and Greenwood was able to create a deep network of black businesses including: stores, a hospital, theatres, newspapers, and more. The internal dollar circulation in the area could last anywhere from three months to one year. A dollar could circulate up to 1000 times in the community. Urban legend tells that some of the Greenwood businessmen were so successful that they were preparing for international trade with South America.
In this interview with Hooker, she recounts the impact of the violence that she and her family experienced. The 1921 Tulsa attack was triggered by the arrest of a young black man, who tripped on a white woman in an elevator. The Greenwood men went to the defense of the young man who was in danger of being lynched. The magnitude of the attack followed by integration a few decades later, dismantled the business success of Greenwood. Several other neighborhoods dubbed Little Africa experienced a similar fate. One of the most famous stories being in Rosewood, Florida, where a bloody massacre destroyed the whole economic structure of the town. Similar incidents also occurred in prosperous black neighborhoods in East St. Louis, Atlanta, and Chicago
Interestingly enough there are individuals of African descent who have amassed more than the collective worth of all of Tulsa in the 20th century, yet the dollars in the black community have been escaping at rapid rates. Certainly, the legend of Greenwood, Tulsa, Little Africas, and Olivia Hooker leave a legacy to uphold for the present and future generations.
Learn more about Greenwood HERE (http://www.greenwoodculturalcenter.com/black-wall-street)