The Queen Photographers // Photo of the Week: The Life & Legacy of Hazel Smith Jones

 Photo by Queen Photographers Photographer Jada Edwards

Name: Jada Edwards

City: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Business Name: Jada Edwards Photography

A note from Jada when this photo was taken:

"My Great Aunt Mrs Hazel D Jones celebrates her 99th birthday today. She was 2 years old during the Tulsa Race Riot. It is meaningful to me because she is the 8th child of 12 children. (She is my grandmother's sister) She and her baby sister are the only 2 surviving siblings. You must just seize and cherish every moment of life. She holds so much history."

It is with great sadness that we at Catalyst learned that Hazel passed away Sunday at the age of 99. Our thoughts go out to Jada and her family, and we could find no more fitting way to honor her life than to share this photo. 

CW: The remaining portion of this article contains details about the Tulsa Race Riot

The Tulsa Race Riot, or the Tulsa Massacre as it is more properly named, took place in 1921 when the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, known as "The Black Wall Street" due to the large number of prosperous black-owned businesses, was attacked by a white mob. The attacks began after a young black man, Dick Rowland, was accused of assaulting a white woman in an elevator. He was arrested, and though he had the support of a number of local lawyers and the protection of the sheriff and a number of armed officers, a mob of about 1,000 white residents surrounded the courthouse threatening to lynch Rowland. About 30 armed black men from Greenwood went to the courthouse to give support to the the sheriff, and upon seeing the armed black men, the mob left and returned with their own guns and additional numbers. An initial shot was fired that resulted in mass gunfire that left many dead. 

The white mob then began to move to the Greenwood neighborhood and many black innocent bystanders were killed and Greenwood businesses were looted. Soon the Oklahoma National Guard was called up, but they arrived primarily to protect the white mob, and began to detain any black residents that they saw. The white mob continued to wreak havoc on Greenwood through the night, firing into homes and businesses and setting many buildings on fire. Attacks even came from the sky, as white men in privately-owned planes dropped firebombs down on the buildings and homes.

Even once the mob retreated, the National Guard continued to round up and detain black residents and held them for a number of days. Hazel was one of those detained. And though Hazel was not yet three years old, she remembers that she and her family were held for two or three days before they were released. (Associated Press)

By the end of the massacre, some news outlets reported as few as 30 deaths, but the American Red Cross put the number at close to 300 black residents dead, and while 30-40 black men were arrested, no white men were ever prosecuted. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 black residents were made homeless by the destruction.

Hazel went on to live a long life, but her experience and legacy and the history of the Tulsa Massacre is one that we must never forget.

 The Queen Photographers


The Queen Photographers is a national organization and community for women of color photographers. The mission of the Queen Photographers is to equip each other in business, cultivating savvy business owners, while building a supportive sisterhood. Each local chapter of The Queen Photographers meets monthly for in-person masterminds, photowalks, workshops, and fellowship.