Everyone loves an outlaw and 1.6 million people proved it when they tuned into BET’s premiere episode of ‘American Gangster’.
Just like the upcoming movie with the same name the series highlights the careers of the truly infamous: Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, Freeway Ricky Ross, Nicky Barnes, Frank Lucas and the Chamber Brothers.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself: “Why does everything about Black people have to be about gangs and drugs?”
I dunno. But I can say this: if white people get to romanticize Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and Billy the Kid. And Italians (and everyone else) get to make heroes out of Al Capone, John Gotti and movies like “The Godfather” and the TV show ‘The Sopranos”, then African Americans can tell stories about gangsters (real gangsters – not studio made, record company inspired wanna be’s) from our neighborhoods.
There is a common mis-perception that there were never any major Black gangsters. White people don’t know about them, because no one outside of the Black community has really written about these people. Until now.
Hopefully we’ll see stories about racketeers like Casper Holstein the brother that created the numbers game as we know it today. The Jones Brothers of Chicago, Eddie Jones was so rich and stayed freshly dipped everyday. They owned one of the biggest furniture stores on the Southside of Chicago ‘Jones Brothers Furniture’; they literally owned the town as far as the numbers game went.
Ellsworth ‘Bumpy’ Johnson was called ‘The Godfather of Harlem’.
Frank Matthews, one time East Coast drug lord had spots in Brooklyn, North Carolina, Atlanta, Ohio and all parts in between, was also somehow connected with the French Connection case. He is one of the most successful bail jumpers ever, he split town in 1973 after posting $325, 000 to get out of jail and then disappeared like a wisp of smoke with more than 25 million dollars. For many years it was believed that the Mob rubbed him out, but the DEA and ATF don’t believe that, in fact, he was spotted a few years back in Philly. For the record Matthews was from North Carolina.
All of these stories deserve to be told in the same way we talk about white gangsters. If you don’t like those kinds of stories, don’t blame writers and producers – blame society for creating the conditions that gave birth to these kinds of people.