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This Woman Built a Formidable Gambling Empire in 1920s Harlem

Madame Stephanie St. Clair was a Harlem entrepreneur with a head for numbers and a skill for minting cash—even during the Great Depression. But like most African Americans in the early 20th century, she found herself barred from traditional, white-dominated financial businesses like banking or investing. Instead, she made her fortune in the underground economy of the numbers racket. Fearlessly facing down corrupt cops and violent mobsters alike, she became one of the racket’s most successful operators, while channeling her money into legitimate ventures and working to lift up others of her race. 

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