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Under a Bad SignCriminal Self-Representation in African American Popular Culture$
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Jonathan Munby

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780226550350

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226550374.001.0001

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Original Gangsta Culture

Original Gangsta Culture

Fortune Economy and the Criminal Mediation of Black Entry into Urban Modernity

Chapter:
(p.23) 1 Original Gangsta Culture
Source:
Under a Bad Sign
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226550374.003.0002

This chapter examines how and why the numbers racket (or policy) became one of the most definitive features of black Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s. It explains that the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance was also the golden age of the black gangster and that black gangster enterprise held powerful significance among African Americans as an emulative modern cultural practice. The chapter also considers folklorist insights about the so-called ill-logic of the black badman in relation to the struggle against racial subordination to the space and time of the city.

Keywords:   numbers racket, black Harlem, Harlem Renaissance, black gangster, modern cultural practice, black badman, racial subordination

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