Gwen Hooks

HooksYear: 2001
Location: Leduc
Profile: Gwendolyn Hooks was born in Keystone (now Breton) to an Oklahoma dad and a Kansas mother. Her parents arrived as one of 52 farming families escaping Jim Crow laws and lynching in the southern United States. Gwen’s mother-in-law was Cree. After attending schools from elementary to college in various Alberta rural districts, Gwen Hooks began her teaching career in the early 1940s. She describes many instances of racism in schools, and restrictions she faced in employment during her teaching career. But, determined to be a role model, Gwen became principal of a special education school for a decade, president of her Alberta Teachers’ Association local chapter, and president of the Breton and District Historical Society. She completed a 35-year teaching career 8 days before anticipated, because “we went on strike.” Gwen Hooks opened a museum in Breton, and authored a local history book entitled The Ladder of Time (1980).  In 1997 she published the book Keystone Legacy, dedicated to the Black pioneer families that built western Alberta. In 2005 Athabasca University awarded Gwen an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters “in recognition of her contribution to the history of Black settlers in Alberta and her promotion of learning.”
Keywords: African Albertans; ATA member; Black settlements in Alberta; Blacks from the United States in Alberta; Community historian; Employment opportunities for African Canadians; Formation of Breton & District Museum; Racialized incident in hiring; Schooling experiences as a student; Teacher, Leduc, Alberta; Teaching in rural areas
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