Black History Month, Heroes in Psychology

Olivia Hooker, PhD (1915-2018)
As a child, Dr. Hooker survived the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. She and her siblings hid behind a kitchen table while watching the destruction. She described the trauma as life-long, but it didn’t hold her back. Dr. Hooker was the first Black woman to enlist for active duty (Coast Guard) and the only Black woman in her Ph.D. class at the University of Rochester, graduating with honors.  She previously attended TC at Columbia University, where she obtained her master’s in psychology. She was told she was ‘not intelligent enough’ to proceed to the doctoral program, and subsequently transferred to the University of Rochester for her doctorate.

She began her mental health career at a prison in New York, counseling and supporting women with learning disabilities. For decades, she continued to work with neurodivergent people who had intellectual and developmental disabilities and established Division 33 of the American Psychological Association, which focuses on neurodiversity. She was also a distinguished professor of psychology at Fordham University, where she was a mentor to both students and faculty. She was a tireless voice for justice and equality, especially for neurodivergent individuals. Dr. Hooker died in 2018 at the age of 103.

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