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Cousins, Olivia

Baby Boomer (born 1943 to 1963)


Dr. Olivia Cousins was born in the winter of 1948, in Dayton, Ohio, to Mary and Oliver Cousins, Sr. with her five siblings Sandy, Collette, Michelle and Oliver. Olivia graduated from the University of Dayton in 1970 with a BA in Psychology. She did further studies at Harvard University and Boston University earning graduate degrees in Education and Social Policy (1970) and Afro-American Studies (1975). In 1984, after fulfilling the requirements, she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Medical/Community Sociology.


Baptized and confirmed at St. James Catholic Church in Dayton, Olivia, "Libby," as she was affectionately called by her family and close friends, was a devout Catholic and a woman of faith for all times. Her faithfulness and deep spirituality live on in the ecumenical associations and affiliations in which she actively engaged in membership and the ministry of service, including St. Paul AME Church in Cambridge, MA as a founding participant of The Henry Buckner School; Bridge Street AME Church in Brooklyn, NY, where she created the Rites of Passage Program for Pre-Teen Girls; Our Lady of Victory of St. Martin de Porres Parish, Brooklyn, NY, where, as Eucharistic Minister, she co-created an Annual Jazz Concert Fundraiser, and St. Francis of Assisi Church, New York, NY, as Eucharistic Minister, volunteer parish photographer and usher).


Dr. Cousins was a fierce warrior for social justice who championed Civil Rights by fighting for access to adequate health care for women in the inner city; her work mirrored her passions. As a Clinical Sociologist, she advocated for communities of color locally and internationally; Director for the After-School Program at Solomon Carter Fuller Community Mental Health Center in Roxbury, MA (1978); Professor at City University of New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC 1987-2019) where she developed the college's Black Men and Black Women's Initiative (1988), Chaired the Health and Education Department (1991) became Director of BMCC's College Opportunity to Prepare for Employment Program, and founded BMCC's Women's Resource Center.


As a feminist, a scholar, and an African American historian, Olivia was committed to advancing the issues of all women and the legacy of African Americans; her passion is evident in the organizations in which she held positions of leadership, including the acquisition of the Historic John Mercer Langston House, former board chairperson of the National Women's Health Network, board member of The Sister Fund and the New York Women's Foundation. Dr. Cousins not only owned and stewarded the John Mercer Langston Historic House, which is a historical African American landmark, but she also founded the John Mercer Langston Institute in Oberlin, OH. The House was in disrepair when she purchased it, but she personally financed all the repairs to date, and through grit, ingenuity and creativity she developed historical tours, youth education programs, and scholarly retreats that embody the legacy of John Mercer Langston. Dr. Cousins was an Organizing Charter Chapter member of Increase Carpenter Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Queens, NY, was a past chapter Regent of Increase Carpenter Chapter, and was the Northeastern Division Vice Chair for the Historic Preservation Committee.


Disciplined and prayerful, Olivia's playful side loved the Arts; she was an artistic photographer with a passion for photojournalism, producing photo essays documenting her family, the people and flowers of her neighborhood in Brooklyn, her travels to Ghana, New York City's #BringBackOurGirls protests, historical tombstones, and Underground Railroad sites. She enjoyed Broadway plays, roaming around the Fulton Art Fair and being an avid collector of art.


Olivia passed away on June 6, 2019.


Obituary provided by the family of Olivia Cousins.

Cousins, Olivia

  • Oral History Summary

    This page is in memorium of Olivia Cousins who passed away on June 6, 2019 during the process of documenting her personal Daughter Dialogue.

  • DAR Service

    Past Organizing Member
    Increase Carpenter Chapter

    Past Chapter Regent
    Increase Carpenter Chapter

    Past Northeastern Division Vice Chair 
    Historic Preservation Committee

  • DAR Patriot Ancestor(s)

    Ezekiel Gomer: Massachusetts

    African Descent Male

  • In the News

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