Madame Stephanie Saint Clair Harlem

Madame Stephanie Saint Clair – Harlem’s Numbers Queen

Madam Stephanie St. Clair was born of mixed French and African descent in Martinique in 1886. She was responsible for bringing Harlem the numbers racket from her homeland. She was also briefly the head of the Forty Thieves Gang, a 19th Century white gang that was even feared by the mobsters of the 20′s due to their violent reputation. She eventually went out on her own establishing Harlem’s numbers rackets along with her partner and longtime friend and confidant, Bumpy Johnson.

Stephanie St Clair
image via Wikimedia Commons

They also resisted Mob attempts to muscle in on their racket. This resulted in a bloody war with the Bub Hewlett Gang who sought to take over their booming numbers business as well as a war with Dutch Schultz who was working for Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. Very quickly, Madame St. Clair, or Queenie as some called her, was worth close to a half million dollars and growing. She was known to be a cruel and tough businesswoman who wasn’t very friendly to many, yet she was respected and feared and loved by some whom she helped with her riches.

She also complained to authorities about the police shaking down her racket. She was later arrested by police on a trumped-up charge and soon released. Her continued questioning of police tactics eventually led to her testimony in the early 30′s at the Seabury Commission, a commission that was investigating many claims of police corruption and harassment. She told the commission about her kickbacks to cops and eventually over a dozen were fired.

After continued Mafia pressure and living under the threat of death from Dutch Schulz, she eventually had to give in to the mafia’s power play although she was still paid handsomely for it. Bumpy Johnson, would later become Luciano’s enforcer in Harlem and he always tried his best to watch out for Madame St. Clair. When Dutch Schultz lay in the hospital dying of gunshot wounds, probably ordered by Lansky and Luciano, a telegram purportedly arrived for him from Madame St. Clair. It read, “So you reap, so shall you sow”. He died shortly after. She died in 1969.

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