Olivia Juliette Hooker was born in 1915 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, at the age of six, she lived through the Ku Klux Klan destroying her family’s home along with the 35-block “Black Wall Street” of Tulsa. The riot left 300 dead, 800 injured, and over 10,000 people homeless.
During WWII she applied to the Navy’s WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) but was rejected because she was black. So, she petitioned the Coast Guard instead, and in 1945, became the first African-American woman to join the U.S. Coast Guard’s women’s reserve.
After the war Olivia enrolled in Columbia University’s Psychology Department where she received a M.A. degree in Psychological Services. She was one of only two African American women in the program in 1947.
In 2015, setting aside the tradition of recognizing members posthumously, the Coast Guard named a building on Staten Island after her. During her lifetime, Hooker was celebrated by presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. (Text courtesy of blackpast.org).