Dec 24, 2016

December 24: From Killer Mob Boss To Champion Of Civil Liberties

Stephanie 'Queenie' St. Clair
    On December 24th, 1886, Stephanie "Queenie" St. Clair, the 'Madame of Harlem' mob boss, was born on the french Caribbean island of  Martinique. St. Clair was born poor and of French and African descent. She did not know her father and her mother died when she was a teenager. After being repeatedly raped working as a maid St. Clair immigrated to France. Finding no better luck there she immigrated to New York at 23, using the long voyage to teach herself english.
       New York City proved to be no better for her, she met a man named Duke who tried to pimp her out. She plucked out his eye with a fork and once again decided to move on. That night she took a bus out of New York but members of the KKK pulled her from the bus and rapped her (as well as killing other passengers).
    Deciding not to run this time she returned to Harlem determined. With the help of a boyfriend, Ed, she began selling drugs, quickly carving out a substantial market for herself. Within a matter of months she amassed a small fortune and decided to leave Ed and work solely for herself. He tried to strangle her and in the ensuing scuffle Ed laid dead and St. Clair became her own boss.
     In a short amount of time St. Clair created a highly successful gambling ring and numbers racket, employing dirty cops and men from around the neighborhood to now work for her, including Bumpy Johnson, who became her chief enforcer. Due to her success other crime families tried to move in on her turf, including Bronx-based mob boss Dutch Schultz. St. Clair wouldn't back down from Schultz's intimidation and a gang war ensued. Other crime families were worried the extra attention would be bad for business so Bumpy negotiated a deal with the Italian crime family giving them word that they could take over Schultz's business (as long as a percentage was given to him) once Schultz was killed. They killed Schultz.
   By this time Bumpy was running most of the business and St. Clair met a man, Sufi Abdul Hamid, known as "Black Hitler" for his militant activism as well as being the leader of an Islamic Buddhist cult. St. Clair retired and married Hamid. St. Clair became highly involved in social activism, often placing ads in the local papers informing black residents of their rights, making aware of discrimination, police brutality, illegal search raids, and other issues facing the black community as well as publicly outing abusive cops. This made her a target, but in Harlem she was highly admired. She employed members of the community, became a vocal member of local activist movements, and started a policy banking group for black residents who were turned away from white owned investment firms.
       In the late 1930s St. Clair began having an affair with a fortune teller named Fu Futtam.  Futtam and St. Clair's husband Hamid hatched a plan to use her money for their own ventures but ended when the affair came to light. In the aftermath Hamid laid dead of a bullet wound, details vary as to the identity of the shooter, but after waging a personal war against the NYC police department St. Clair spent 10 years in a New York State Prison for his murder.
     After Saint-Clair was released from prison she continued her community work in civil liberties as well as writing columns in the local newspaper about discrimination and other issues facing the black community. Bumpy Johnson came to live with her and they spent their elder years writing poetry together.

Editor's Note: Posted for Spooky; Merry Xmas my girl.