Boardwalk Empire Fancast: Gina Torres as Madame (“Queenie”) St. Clair
Madam St. Clair was born of mixed French and African descent on Martinique. She immigrated to America via Marseilles in 1912 and ten years later took $10,000 of her own money and set up a numbers bank in Harlem. She became known throughout Manhattan as Queenie, but Harlem residents respectfully referred to her as Madame St. Clair. She became affiliated with the 40 Thieves gang, but it was not long before she branched off on her own and ran one of the leading numbers games in the city.
After the end of Prohibition, Jewish and Italian-American crime families saw a decrease in profits and decided to move in on the Harlem gambling scene. Bronx-based mob boss Dutch Schultz was the first to move in, beating and killing numbers operators who would not pay him his “cut.” Queenie and her chief enforcer Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson refused to pay protection to Schultz, but the wave of violence and intimidation began wearing them down. Eventually, however, Bumpy Johnson approached Lucky Luciano. He negotiated himself into the position of enforcing the will of the Five Families by supervising and shaking down Harlem’s black lotteries and bookmakers. He also approached Madam St. Clair and tried to persuade her to come with him. She at first refused, but Bumpy continued doing his best to protect his former boss. However, both eventually realized that the struggle was hurting business, and collaborated to arrange a truce with Schultz. Queenie was allowed to operate so long as she continued paying the Family Tax to the Italians. In 1935, Schultz was assassinated on the orders of The Commission. St. Clair had nothing to do with his murder, but sent a telegram to his hospital bed. It read, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”