1920’s Harlem Mob Boss and Community Activist Stephanie St. Clair Gets a Lifetime Biopic. Janet Jackson Will Executive Produce.
In a bid to offer more quality projects with celebrity partners, the Lifetime Network recently announced a new list of slated projects, from docuseries to biopics.
One particular project that caught my eye was a planned film about the Harlem mob boss and community activist known as “Queenie.” Janet Jackson is set to executive produce and leading Broadway director Kenny Leon is set to direct.
Born Stephanie St. Clair in 1886, Queenie was an immigrant of French and African descent, who came to the United States from Martinique at the age of 23. She soon started her own numbers racket, an illegal lottery often found in poor neighborhoods, and became known as Madame St. Clair. In the midst of her criminal activities, St. Clair was also a community activist, who regularly fought against police harassment and brutality.
Her criminal enterprise often faced threats from Jewish and Italian organized crime outfits in New York City who were seeking new criminal opportunities after the end of Prohibition. Eventually, St. Clair worked out an agreement with infamous mobster Lucky Luciano and then left the numbers game altogether. She opened a new chapter in a life and became dedicated to criminal justice reform.
In the late 1930’s, St. Clair met and married Sufi Abdul Hamid, an anti-Semetic extremist and the leader of an Islamic Buddhist cult. The marriage ended when St. Clair discovered Hamid had been cheating on her and spending her money with his mistress, and he ended up being shot. She was charged with his murder and served 10 years in prison. After her release, St. Clair continued to work as an activist, in addition to focusing on journalism. Many of the articles she wrote centered on police brutality and the frequent civil liberties violations taking place in black communities at the hands of the police.
St. Clair died quietly in her Harlem, in 1969, at the age of 82. She had managed to retain most of her wealth until her death.
The upcoming Lifetime production, actually won’t be the first time that Stephanie St. Clair has been depicted on film. Cicely Tyson played St. Clair in the 1997 crime drama by Bill Duke, Hoodlum.