Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

BLACK GANGS OF HARLEM : 1920-1939

End Game

Bumpy Johnson was filled with anger toward whites and the Jim Crow system they had established. He was determined to take advantage of every opportunity offered him. Larenson states that Bumpy told her, Sure Im a thief and a pimp and a hood. What would you have me do? Go down to Grand Central Station and carry bags for dimes, or go back to Africa and take my pants off and run around in the jungle? Lucky Luciano can live at the Waldorf but it dont matter how much money I got, I cant walk in there and get me a room. Every time I look in the mirror I see the same black face. I aint no Paul Robeson and I aint no Angelo Herndon. Im just an awful lot of black. All I got to do is stay black and die. White people aint left us nothing but the underworld. They made hoods and thieves outta every nigger thats got guts.

Sing Sing prison
Sing Sing prison
 

Bumpy later served terms at Sing Sing and Alcatraz. He was released in 1963 after serving 15 years on what he called trumped up federal charges. According to an Amsterdam News article, he was welcomed like a conqueror. Bumpy went on to become one of Harlems most well-known, legendary characters. In July of 1968, while on bail for new Federal charges and awaiting trial, Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson died from a heart attack a free man.

Fiorello La Guardia appoints Thomas E. Dewey
Fiorello La Guardia appoints Thomas E. Dewey
 

In 1933, Prohibition was repealed and New York Citys new mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, appointed a bright, young attorney to the position of Special Prosecutor. His name was Thomas E. Dewey and it was his job to clean up the corruption existing in Tammany Hall and throughout the city. His main target was the Mob leader, Dutch Schultz, the known kingpin of Harlems policy rackets, bootlegging, prostitution, narcotics and other illicit operations.

Dutch Schultz and 5 pals, shot
Dutch Schultz and 5 pals, shot

Dutch Schultz blew his stack when Dewey began moving in on his operations. Schultz formulated a plan to assassinate Thomas Dewey. Lucky Luciano found out about the planned hit and knew The Syndicate did not want the attention that the killing would bring. It would jeopardize their numbers empire and other operations. Luciano and The Mob Syndicate passed down orders to have Schultz rubbed out. Schultz was gunned down in a chophouse in Newark, N.J., before he could initiate his plans for Dewey. As Dutch Schultz lay dying in a hospital, he received a Western Union telegram message saying, As ye sow, so shall ye reap. It was signed, Madame Queen.  

Charles "Lucky" Luciano
Charles "Lucky" Luciano

For a brief moment all of Harlem celebrated. Little did anyone realize that Dutch Shultzs death and Deweys continuing investigations signaled the end of the Harlem numbers syndicate and also Lucianos reign as Mob boss. Dutch Shultzs gang fell apart after his death and Mob leadership changed. The numbers rackets continued under the control of the Mob and black participation remained diminished.     

Thomas Dewey
Thomas Dewey

Inevitably, Thomas Dewey successfully cracked down on all of the Mobs illicit operations in Harlem and sent Lucky Luciano to prison for thirty to fifty years. Tammany Halls corrupt officials, Jimmy Hines, and anyone associated with those breaching the laws, were convicted or cleared out. However, the Mob bosses still maintained bonds with the political and legal machinery of the city.

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