1903: Chicago’s Black Gambling World
This prologue describes Chicago's black gambling world and three of its leading figures, focusing on major developments in 1903. It begins with a look at John “Mushmouth” Johnson, who operated a saloon and gambling den at 464 South State Street. Since around 1900, Johnson's most profitable operation had been the game of policy. Johnson wove a dense and seemingly impermeable tapestry of gambling, politics, protection, and graft. Each of Johnson's successive gambling houses catered to an interracial clientele—whites, blacks, and Asians. The discussion then turns to black gambler John Weston “Poney” Moore, who ran a hotel and saloon on Twenty-first Street, and Robert T. Motts. Motts turned his entrepreneurial talents from the interwoven world of gambling, protection, and politics to the project of racial community-building on Chicago's South Side. After the mayor launched an anti-gambling campaign that brought Motts's operations to public attention for the first time, Motts began planning to transform his saloon into a beer garden and vaudeville house.
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