In the 1930s, the enigmatic figure ran an illegal lottery while championing New York City’s Black community
— BY, SARAH DURN
On the eve of the Great Depression, with Prohibition in full swing, everyone in Harlem knew the name Stephanie St. Clair, the “queen of numbers.” A gangster, civil rights advocate, fashionista and businesswoman, she took on one of the biggest crime bosses of the era—and lived to tell about it.
Far from hiding in a criminal underworld, St. Clair was also outspoken, advocating in the press for immigrant rights and against police brutality. When necessary, she told suitors to “please not annoy me. I, Mme. St. Clair, am not looking for a husband or a sweetheart. If [you] do not stop annoying me, I shall publish [your] names and letters in the newspaper.”