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Mabel Little, survivor of riot, dead at 104

Mabel Little, survivor of riot, dead at 104

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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.


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