Mabel B. Little, a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot
and a matriarch of Tulsa's black community, died Jan. 13.
She was 104.
Services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Mount Zion
Baptist Church under the direction of Jack's Memory Funeral
The granddaughter of former slaves, Little came to Tulsa
on Sept. 21, 1913, from Boley. With her mother ill, she
began working at the Brady Hotel for $20 a month. One year
later, she met and married Presley Little.
She opened her first beauty shop in 1917 and continued
in the salon business for more than 50 years. She organized
the first beauticians club in the city in 1918.
In 1921, she and her husband built a new shop, home and
rental house. Two weeks and four days after it was
completed, the property was burned to the ground in the
Little and her husband had been instrumental in helping
to build the Mount Zion Baptist Church building that was
destroyed in the same riot that had destroyed their home.
She and her husband adopted 11 children between 1918 and
1927, but he died one month after the last children came to
live with the family, leaving her to rear them alone. She
adopted a 12th child in the mid-1940s.
During the Great Depression, she took a job at McDonnell
Douglas and followed the aviation industry from Tulsa to
Wichita, Kan., to Los Angeles.
In addition to caring for her adopted children, most of
whom were the natural children of family members, Little
helped other needy children in Tulsa.
In her life story, "Fire on Mt. Zion: My Life and History
as a Black Woman in America," Little tells of growing up in
a segregated society and of the riot.
The book was aimed at modern youths, she said, because
they need to be reminded of the power of God and prayer.
"Life is too short not to be used to help others," she said.
The Mabel B. Little Heritage House outside the Greenwood
Cultural Center, 322 N. Greenwood Ave., is named in her
Little is survived by a niece, Mable Stake of Stockton,
Calif.; a nephew, Oliver Thompson of Inglewood, Calif.; and
a cousin, Lydia Roundtree of Houston.