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Walter's Walk - Keeping an Open Mind About it All
November 3rd, 2010
09:47 am

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Keeping an Open Mind About it All
     A decade and a half later, in early May 1940, Marvel Cooke, a reporter for the
Amsterdam News, walked the streets of Black Metropolis investigating what her 
newspaper headlined as Harlem's "Million Dollar Take."  Cooke estimated that there
were some 200-odd spiritualists, and perhaps as many again card readers, crystal gazers,
and their ilk, reaping "nearly $1,000,000 from approximately 50,000 or so Harlemites
passing through their doors annually."  This was one of the "few businesses in Harlem
which has actually flourished during the latest period of economic stress."  Sipritualists,
fortune tellers and the like were "usually housed in dimly lit, smelly railroad flats
in sections where they are not apt to be hounded by the police who periodically declare
war on them."  There were two issues that these modern "miracle workers" were called on
to resolve: "Am I going to find work?" and "Am I going to hit the number soon?"  It will
come as no surprise to discover that the vast majority of customers, though by no means all,
came from the ranks of the unemployed and the poorest of Harlem's residents.
     It matters little where these people were genuine spiritualists and fortune
tellers or out-and-out conmen and women.  The underlying business...

Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars, p96-97

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From:rankest
Date:November 4th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
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I'm still waiting to read the headline, "Psychic Wins Lottery." Not shocked that so many of the poor, uneducated, jobless folks who got taken in by the numbers racket would fork over an additional $20 each (on average...I did the math) to get even further taken by the fortune teller schemes. Then again... I dunno if I can put much credence in a book about gambling in Harlem during the early 20th Century being written by 4 Australian white guys.
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