I grew up listening to Frankie “Hollywood” Crocker.
Back in the day, Hollywood went, well, Hollywood and appeared in five films, including Cleopatra Jones and Darktown Strutters. In Five on the Black Hand Side, he played Rolls Royce, a numbers runner. Before state lotteries, folks played the numbers, the “poor man’s stock market”:
Once known as the “policy numbers game” in Harlem, playing the numbers was a way of making ends meet as well as a way of meeting other needs in the economically starved community. Playing the numbers, a game where players betted on a series of three digit numbers from 000 to 999, was considered the “poor man’s stock market.”
The numbers man carried the money and betting slips to the policy bank. Some were mathematical geniuses who didn’t need slips; instead, they memorized the numbers.
Today’s Black History Month lesson: From runaway slaves looking for the North Star to their descendants running numbers to make ends meet, STEM is in black folks’ DNA.