Immigrating from the West Indies to Harlem in the early 1900s, Stephanie St. Clair morphed into Madame St. Clair, leader of a successful, yet illegal enterprise. With an initial investment of $10k, St. Clair cemented herself in the male-dominated arena of policy banking and numbers running alongside her enforcer Bumpy Johnson.
At the close of Prohibition, Italian crime families lost income and descended upon the Harlem gambling racket to fill in the financial gap, killing those who would not pay. St. Clair resisted these demands and faced off with mob boss Dutch Schultz by attacking his storefronts and tipping off police to his activities. Eventually, after mounting pressure and lack of police protection, St. Clair went legit and turned her enterprise over to Bumpy Johnson but had remarkably remained free from mob control. While suffering from a gunshot wound and laying on his deathbed, St. Clair infamously sent Dutch Schultz a telegram that read, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
Despite her criminal proclivities, St. Clair was a staunch advocate for Black liberties and would regularly put ads in the local newspaper to educate Harlemites on their rights and address her stance on police brutality.