LaShawn Harris is an associate professor of History at Michigan State University and assistant editor for the Journal of African American History (JAAH). Her area of expertise includes twentieth century African American and Black Women’s histories. Harris’s scholarly essays are published in The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, Journal of Urban History, Journal of Women’s History, and SOULS: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society. Her first monograph, Sex Workers, Psychics, and Number Runners: Black Women in New York City’s Underground Economy, won the 2017 Organization of American Historians' (OAH) Darlene Clark Hine award for the best book in African American women's and gender history and the Philip Taft Labor Prize from The Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA) and the Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) School at Cornell University. Harris’s work has been featured in popular media outlets, including TV-One, Glamour Magazine, Elle, Vice, and Black Perspectives. Harris’s current research project explores the socioeconomic and political lives of African American women in New York City during the 1980s.
This presentation places early twentieth century African American women at the center of New York City's lucrative gambling racket. An examination of urban women gambling racketeers like Harlem’s infamous “Numbers Queen” Madame Stephanie St. Clair complicates masculine representations of urban underground economies and disrupts the view that women did not figure prominently in vice syndicates. Moreover, this lecture tells the untold story of why and how women used urban informal economies to creatively secure economic stability, wealth, and respectability and to make a bold statement about Jim Crow North.