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The Godfather of Harlem: Ellsworth

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The Godfather of Harlem: Ellsworth
The Godfather of Harlem: Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson's Reign
By Omerta MIA -
By Omerta MIA -  

Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson: The Godfather of Harlem


Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, a legendary figure in the annals of American gangsters, was widely known as the "Godfather of Harlem." His iron grip on the neighborhood made him a revered and feared figure, as he controlled various illicit activities such as drug trafficking, numbers rackets, extortion, and bootlegging. Johnson, a close associate of the notorious Genovese crime family, was a force to be reckoned with during his reign in New York City.


Born in South Carolina in 1905, Johnson's early life was marked by brushes with the law. In his late teens and early twenties, he found himself in and out of prison, a pattern that would shape the course of his criminal career. Following his release from prison in 1932, Johnson returned to the streets of Harlem only to discover that Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz had encroached upon the lucrative numbers racket. Any bookmaker who refused to hand over their operation to Schultz was met with violence.


However, Johnson's fortunes took a turn when Schultz was murdered by members of the National Crime Syndicate in 1935. This presented an opportunity for him to reclaim his Harlem streets. Johnson sought a meeting with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a prominent figure in the Italian mafia, to negotiate a deal. The agreement allowed Black bookmakers to maintain their independence while paying tributes to the mafia's central gambling pools. This landmark deal earned Johnson widespread admiration and respect within Harlem.


By successfully negotiating with the Italian mafia, Johnson became the first Black man to establish a mutually beneficial arrangement. This feat solidified his position as the de facto boss of Harlem, with no criminal activity taking place in the neighborhood without his knowledge and approval. Johnson's influence and authority were unrivaled.


His reign over Harlem lasted until the summer of 1952 when he faced a major setback. Johnson was indicted for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison. It seemed that his grip on power had finally been broken. However, his spirit remained unbroken.


After serving his sentence, Johnson was released in 1963 and returned to the streets of Harlem, where he still commanded respect. Despite facing another indictment for the same charges years later, he never made it to trial. Johnson's life came to a tragic end in 1968 when he passed away from congestive heart failure. He had been sitting down to enjoy a meal at Wells Restaurant in Harlem when he suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed. His childhood friends, who had been gathering to meet him for lunch that day, witnessed his untimely demise. Today, Johnson rests in peace at Woodlawn Cemetery, leaving behind a legacy that continues to captivate and intrigue.


The story of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson showcases the complex dynamics of power and influence within the criminal underworld. His ability to negotiate with the Italian mafia and maintain control over Harlem made him a true legend. From his humble beginnings to his untimely demise, Johnson's life is a testament to the indomitable spirit and unwavering determination of a man who became the Godfather of Harlem.

Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson: The Godfather of Harlem


Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, a legendary figure in the annals of American gangsters, was widely known as the "Godfather of Harlem." His iron grip on the neighborhood made him a revered and feared figure, as he controlled various illicit activities such as drug trafficking, numbers rackets, extortion, and bootlegging. Johnson, a close associate of the notorious Genovese crime family, was a force to be reckoned with during his reign in New York City.


Born in South Carolina in 1905, Johnson's early life was marked by brushes with the law. In his late teens and early twenties, he found himself in and out of prison, a pattern that would shape the course of his criminal career. Following his release from prison in 1932, Johnson returned to the streets of Harlem only to discover that Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz had encroached upon the lucrative numbers racket. Any bookmaker who refused to hand over their operation to Schultz was met with violence.


However, Johnson's fortunes took a turn when Schultz was murdered by members of the National Crime Syndicate in 1935. This presented an opportunity for him to reclaim his Harlem streets. Johnson sought a meeting with Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a prominent figure in the Italian mafia, to negotiate a deal. The agreement allowed Black bookmakers to maintain their independence while paying tributes to the mafia's central gambling pools. This landmark deal earned Johnson widespread admiration and respect within Harlem.


By successfully negotiating with the Italian mafia, Johnson became the first Black man to establish a mutually beneficial arrangement. This feat solidified his position as the de facto boss of Harlem, with no criminal activity taking place in the neighborhood without his knowledge and approval. Johnson's influence and authority were unrivaled.


His reign over Harlem lasted until the summer of 1952 when he faced a major setback. Johnson was indicted for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison. It seemed that his grip on power had finally been broken. However, his spirit remained unbroken.


After serving his sentence, Johnson was released in 1963 and returned to the streets of Harlem, where he still commanded respect. Despite facing another indictment for the same charges years later, he never made it to trial. Johnson's life came to a tragic end in 1968 when he passed away from congestive heart failure. He had been sitting down to enjoy a meal at Wells Restaurant in Harlem when he suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed. His childhood friends, who had been gathering to meet him for lunch that day, witnessed his untimely demise. Today, Johnson rests in peace at Woodlawn Cemetery, leaving behind a legacy that continues to captivate and intrigue.


The story of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson showcases the complex dynamics of power and influence within the criminal underworld. His ability to negotiate with the Italian mafia and maintain control over Harlem made him a true legend. From his humble beginnings to his untimely demise, Johnson's life is a testament to the indomitable spirit and unwavering determination of a man who became the Godfather of Harlem.

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