The History Channel needs to get out of my head. It recently premiered a new 3-part docuseries that is right up my alley - The Booze, Bets And Sex That Built America. I love to watch documentaries about the vices in this country (sorry mom). One female badass, who marked her place in history as a smart, ruthless businesswoman is featured in the series. She began her illicit venture in Harlem and turned it into a lucrative but illegal business.
The HISTORY® Channel to premiere its new series 'The Booze, Bets and Sex That Built America' on Sunday, June 12 at 8PM ET/PT. An extension of the network’s popular 'That Built' franchise, the three-part nonfiction series divulges surprising origin stories of the American alcohol, gambling, sex and tobacco industries and the ambitiously notorious entrepreneurs who built some of history’s biggest fortunes on the nation’s cravings.
Credit: HISTORY via Youtube
Stephanie St. Clair aka Queenie aka Madame St. Clair was the numbers queen of Harlem. She was Creole (African and French descent). She was a female boss and sometimes-gangster. She used strategy and force to keep other gangsters, like Dutch Schultz, out of Harlem. According to the Mob Museum,
"By 1930, she was reportedly worth $300,000 (the purchasing power of about $4.3 million today)."
The Booze, Bets And Sex That Built America credits her numbers operation with giving rise to New York State's lottery system. When she retired, she passed her operation on to her lead enforcer Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson. Cicely Tyson played her in the 1997 hood classic movie "Hoodlum."
Credit: History With No Chaser via Youtube
If you like to watch all things true crime and vice, this series is really eye-opening and a must-watch. It chronicles how entrepreneurs like Eberhard Anheuser, Jack Daniels, and St. Clair began their empires. It dives into the politics and social climates during the eras that made many of their businesses illegal at one time or another.
You can watch it on Hulu or you can buy the episodes on Youtube.