This information was sent to me by my good friend Mark Anthony Neal.
Bookies and gamblers bailed out blacks during The Depression. Who will save us now?
Running the Numbers
By Robert E. Weems Jr. | TheRoot.com
Sept. 30, 2008--Despite its failure in the House yesterday, a massive taxpayer-financed bailout of the nation's various financial institutions remains a near certainty.
Black taxpayers in particular, who have been disproportionately affected by the housing crisis, have reason to be anxious about how they will fare in the rescue scenario. If only numbers runners held the kind of clout today that they did during the Great Depression.
In the 1930s, at the height of the Depression, black gamblers rescued the Negro Baseball Leagues from going under-an action that would have repercussions for years to come.
African-American workers, always the "last hired, first fired," were vulnerable during the Depression. Black-owned businesses, which depended exclusively on black consumer support, also suffered mightily. High black unemployment rates associated with the Depression meant fewer sales and profits for African-American enterprises. In 1929, aggregate sales for black America's 24,969 retail stores was $98.6 million. Six years later, in 1935, there were 22,756 black-owned retail stores, and their aggregate sales had plummeted to $47.9 million.
At the same time that black-owned retail outlets, banks and manufacturing concerns were either closing or losing money across the country, the "numbers racket," or "policy" (an off-the-books lottery run by private individuals), took off. In fact, numbers rapidly eclipsed legitimate black businesses as the primary economic force in Depression-era black communities.
Although the numbers racket targeted working-class and poor communities, and were unregulated and untaxed by the local governments, there was little, if any, stigma among blacks to being involved with policy. Numbers bosses nevertheless sought respectability by investing gambling profits in legitimate businesses. During the 1930s, black baseball attracted a great deal of this money.
Gus Greenlee, who was known as the "numbers king" of Pittsburgh, was the most influential black-gambler-turned-baseball-team-owner. He organized the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1931, and Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and James "Cool Papa" Bell were among the stars Greenlee's laundered gambling profits attracted. Other prominent East Coast gambling figures who revived black baseball included Alex Pompez, owner of the New York Cubans; James "Soldier Boy" Semler, owner of the Baltimore Elite Giants; Abe Manley, owner of the Newark Eagles; and Ed Bolden, owner of the Philadelphia Stars.
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