African-American crime syndicates first emerged in the early 20th century, running numbers rackets (lotteries) in the black neighborhoods of cities like New York City and Chicago. Eventually the Italian and Jewish crime syndicates noticed how much money was being made and decided they wanted a piece of the action. In every city where there was a black syndicate, either they were crushed by the outsiders or forced to work for the National Syndicate, in which they became subordinate to the Italians and Jews. For the next couple of decades that was the paradigm in the African-American communities where there were black racketeers and heroin drug barons who gave the Italians a big share of their revenue, got their drugs from the Italians, and so on.
The Vietnam War changed all that, as black war veterans came back to the United States with connections to the Golden Triangle. At the same time, the Italians had their heroin connection disrupted (the Corsican Union , known as the "French Connection"). Making matters worse for the Italians this was a time of racial and ethnic strife (Civil Rights, and the Black Power and Brown Power movements), and the black and Latino gangsters were increasingly rebellious and determined to break free from the Italians. Since the Italians had permitted the Latinos and blacks to run the urban drug rackets to give themselves a level of deniability though they supplied the heroin, taxed them, and assigned them territories, when they became rebellious the Italians soon lost control of the urban drug rackets.
The period that ran from the late 1960s to early 1980s was the era of the black heroin syndicates. Groups like the Country Boys (Frank Matthews) and The Council (Nicky Barnes) in New York City, the Black Mafia in Philadelphia, Young Boys, Inc (YBI) in Detroit, and El Rukn in Chicago. Their origins varied, from street gangs that became crime syndicates (El Rukn, Gangster Disciples, and Supreme Team), criminal families established by brothers or cousins (the Country Boys, the Chamber Brothers, and the Black Mafia Family), the children of previous drug barons (Junior Black Mafia), groups of criminals who banded together and formed a syndicate (Black Mafia), and an alliances between black crime lords (The Council). In all cases they established some of the most sophisticated drug syndicates seen in American history. Highly organized and structured organizations, that emulated the Italian Mafia or corporations in their operations. Many of them defied the Italians, establishing independent operations and even threatening the Italians with war. Eventually they all either self destructed due to internal rivalries and/or were dismantled by law enforcement.
Afterwards in the 1980s-1990s came the next stage of African-American organized crime, the crack syndicates. Once again, black criminal entrepreneurs became trail blazers in the drug underworld establishing sophisticated drug enterprises that were incredibly lucrative. Groups like the Chambers Brothers in Detroit, the Gangster Disciples in Chicago, Supreme Team in NY City, and the Junior Black Mafia (JBM) in Philadelphia. It was also a time of crack lords who ran their own citywide or multi-state empires like Ricky Donnell Ross (Freeway Rick) of Los Angeles, Johnny Binder Jr (Big J) in Houston, and Rayful Edmond (Mr. Dunbar) of Washington DC. This time they were more successful, as their drug distribution networks ended up encompassing all of the United States.
They dominated the crack trade in not only the cities but also the suburbs and rural cities, with their only real competition being another black mob, the Jamaican Posses. It was an underworld of ghetto syndicates that made $100s of millions a year and super gangs that made $10s of millions a year from crack cocaine. For a brief period in the history of the American underworld it appeared that they would become the masters of the underworld, replacing the Italians as decades earlier the Italians and Jews had replaced the Irish. Like the black heroin syndicates, they too were soon reduced in wealth and power because of internal rivalries and/or they were dismantled by law enforcement. The last of the major black syndicates prior to the Awakening was the Black Mafia Family (BMF) of Detroit, which became a major nationwide cocaine distribution organization in the 1990s that trafficked in multi-kilogram wholesale quantities. It had an estimated 500 members and controlled a drug empire worth $250 million at their peak. Unlike the other black crime syndicates they left behind the crack trade and street-level drug sales. They were taken down by the federal government in the first decade of the 21st century.
When magic returned to the world with a vengeance in the Awakening, the LCN took advantage of the chaos and opened its doors to the smaller criminal outfits. Most of the Black urban syndicates joined the new multi-ethnic Mafia. They were either absorbed into one of the 12 major families or became one of the 100+ minor families and associated groups.
The African-American underworld was one were being an entrepreneur, a hustler is the gold standard. Every ambitious black gangster wanted to be like Nicky Barnes (The Council), Frank Matthew (Country Boys), Larry Hoover (Gangster Disciples), Jeff Fort (El Rukn), or "Freeway" Rick Ross (Crips). They wanted to make it to the big time and hustle for the big score. It's not a criminal underworld in which the syndicates had a legendary or near-mythical past like the Triads, Yakuza, or Mafia. They were not criminal societies in which members were indoctrinated to follow a set of traditions, rules, and beliefs. It was not an underworld where there was a code of silence. One in which the syndicates took care of your family, provided you with a support infrastructure while you were in prison, and membership was for life. Nor was it an underworld where the members could count on the support of an extended family or clan, which came with obligations, loyalty, and trust such as with the Mexican Syndicates or the Albanian Fares.
In the "black mafia" the reason for the existence of all the heroin and crack syndicates was making as much money as possible. They were purely business organizations. What culture existed within these syndicates was the general culture that existed in the ghetto, which was a mix of African-American culture and the desperate culture of slums everywhere. The gangsters of most of these syndicates dressed in what was fashionable among urban blacks, usually the most flashy elements of it such as fur coats in the 1970s or lots of jewelry in the 1990s. Members would drive in "pimped out" Cadillac and Buick automobiles in the 1970s or flashy BMWs and Mercedes Benzes in the 1990s. You could identify who was a member of the syndicate by the fact they wore clothing that identified them such as wearing the same type of jumpsuits (the YBI and JBM) or sporting diamond-encrusted rings and driving customized Volvos with the gang's emblem (the JBM).
Black organized crime was famous for throwing extravagant parties and showing off their wealth, only equaled by the Cuban drug barons of Miami during the cocaine boom of the 1980s. Where the OG (Original Gangster) of the 1990s had gold chains and flashed thick cash rolls. Their crime lords bought extravagant houses and would become players in the black music industry (especially hip hop). They would hobnob with basketball players, football athletes, professional boxers, soul singers, funk bands, and rap artists. Many of them loved the attention of the media. It was also an extremely violent underworld, where drive-by shootings was par for the course and shootouts at night clubs, parties, music venues, sporting events, and casinos was the norm. Uzi sub-machine guns, Ak-47 assault rifles, and sawed-off shotguns were the favored weapons of war. The concept of low profile was unknown to most of these syndicates and super gangs. It was an underworld that was aggressive, bold, hungry, ambitious, and defiant.
Black organized crime in the latter part of the 20th century came in a variety of forms. Some of the heroin and crack syndicates emerged from street gangs that evolved into urban drug cartels, which took on the characteristics of a corporation or paramilitary organization. Other syndicates were established by criminal entrepreneurs with little to no gang affiliation whom created syndicates using family members and/or local gang members. Then there was the Los Angeles model which consisted of entrepreneurial gang members who would build their own drug empires under the banner of a gang but which was not controlled by the gang.
Detroit Corporate GangsEdit
Motor City gave America the corporate-type gangs which resulted in a black mafia which was dominated by factions that were highly organized with a hierarchy and often divisions or branches, often structured like a corporation.
In the city of Detroit from 1977-1987 (dominant in 1977-82) were the Young Boys Inc (YBI) with 400 members which in 1982 earned $500 million from the heroin trade. It was organized like both a corporation and a paramilitary force, which different branches had responsibilities for different parts of the operation. Young Boys Inc used teams of boys and girls aged 8-12 to sell drugs and do the marketing (with handwritten coupons and notices of new products and sales). Delivery was done via taxi cabs and 10-speed bicycles. Members would all dress in the same type of clothing, whatever was most trendy at the time and would buy vehicles in groups (all of them the same one or two sporty or luxurious models, even the same color). They would go to concerts or night clubs in groups of at least 50 members or would travel to sporting events or amusement parks in caravans of a 100 members, all in brand new vehicles.
YBI's leaders took raw heroin to "hookup" houses where workers would mix the heroin with additives as in an assembly line. Which was then put into coin envelopes that were stamped with the brand name. Ten envelopes would be a "bundle" that was taken by young adults and older teenagers to the locations where the drugs were going to be sold. At each location, normally a housing project or street corner, there was a "top dog" who supervised the location and distributed the drugs to the runners who were the youngest employees. Who sold the heroin to addicts for $13, in which YBI got $10 and the runner $3. If the kid hustled he could make $300-400 a day. On Sunday, everyone would usually gather at a warehouse to get paid their salaries and bonuses were common.
The YBI soon had a rival, one that modeled itself on them which was Pony Down a drug gang that fearlessly challenged YBI on its own turf, resulting in a bloody gang war between the two. At its peak in 1983, Pony Down was earning $100 million a year from heroin and cocaine sales. Soon another drug gang emerged, one that killed for pleasure known as Best Friends. Members were known for driving Volvos and wearing bulletproof vests, large gold chains, and jackets that had "Best Friends" on the back. The gang would speak on code when talking on the phone. They expanded to other cities in Michigan forcing smaller groups to work for them, and then expanded to cities in Ohio and Kentucky. At their peak they were earning $100 million a year, selling 100 kilos of cocaine per week.
Detroit later experienced the Chambers Brothers, a crack syndicate that supplied half the crack in the city from 1982-88 making $3 million a day in cocaine at their peak (at least $500 million in that year). The crack empire was built by 7 brothers who recruited youngsters from their hometown in Marianne, Arkansas. Employing hundreds, they controlled a drug empire of dozens of crack houses and took over the Broadmoor a 52-unit 4-story apartment where customers bought and smoked crack, bartering in cars, sex, or VCRs. They became nationally famous when then Governor Bill Clinton mentioned them as an example of the ills of drugs in the 1988 Democratic Convention. It was the Chambers Brothers syndicate which was the inspiration for the fictional drug lord Nino Brown and his drug gang the Cash Money Brothers (CMB) in the movie New Jack City.
Chicago Super GangsEdit
In the Windy City, it was the gangs that ran the streets and two of the black super gangs would rise to become criminal cartels. The best organized and wealthiest super gangs in the history of street gangs in the United States.
The first one was El Rukn which started out as the Blackstone Rangers in 1959. Under the leadership of Jeff Fort and Eugene "Bull" Hairston the gang rapidly grew from 200 in 1965 to 1,500 in 1966, then 3,000 in 1967, and reached 5,000 in 1968. By the mid-1960s the Blackstone Rangers had become a confederation of gangs. In 1966, they established a council to rule the gang, called "Main 21" in which each member gang had a seat and the leaders were called "generals". Starting in 1965 it participated in a federal program that was part of the "War on Poverty", where it received nearly $1.5 million in federal funds between 1965-1972. Which were used to establish legitimate businesses that provided drugs and prostitutes in the backrooms. During this period the gang was also involved in extorting drug dealers and pimps, and legitimate businessmen. In 1968, they took over the cocaine and heroin trade in the black neighborhoods of Chicago's South Side. The gang also trafficked in stolen property.
Jeff Fort and other leaders in the gang were convicted in 1972 of defrauding the federal government. While in prison Jeff Fort converted to Islam, specifically the Moorish Science Temple. When he left prison he established "El Rukn" in 1976, a gang loyal only to him. The next yer in a coup "El Rukn" took over the rest of the Blackstone Rangers and replaced the "Main 21" with five generals chosen by Jeff Fort. During the late 1970s, El Rukn was involved in cocaine and marijuana, established a multi-state drug distribution network, and had won tax-exempt status as a "religious" organization. They purchased properties via a maze of blind trusts, properties which never paid tax. Jeff Fort was convicted again in 1983, though he continued to lead the gang from prison via telephone using the "El Rukn" code (mix of street jargon, Arabic, and Swahili). In 1984, they started trafficking in heroin and were bringing in to Chicago, 3 kilos of cocaine and heroin a month. They were earning $10s of millions a year from the drug trade. In 1987 the gang's empire was finally taken down by government.
The most successful and powerful of the black super gangs were the Gangster Disciples which were founded in 1968. A gang which at its height consisted of approximately 30,000 members in 35 states who were led by Larry (King) Hoover and were making $100 million a year (most of it from drugs). It was a gang with a chairman (Hoover) and two boards of directors (one in prison and one on the streets). Below them were the governors, each with up to 1,500 members in their territories which were subdivided further among the regents and coordinators. Larry Hoover made the laws of the gang, a 16-rule gang code which members had to memorize and which forbid the use of addictive drugs, gambling on credit, stealing from members or showing them disrespect, and homosexual rape. It also required personal cleanliness and exercising among the members. The gang bought 100-200 kg cocaine shipments from the Colombians and made its money from drug sales and street taxes.
On the West Coast, in the city of Oakland a number of street gangs evolved into drug syndicates called "Machines". Which were more sophisticated than the operations in Los Angeles, Chicago, or Detroit and rivaled the sophistication of the drug syndicates in New York
The first one was 69 Mob which was led by Felix "The Cat" Mitchell in the 1970s and early 80s. During which it dominated the heroin trade in Oakland, controlling the drug racket in two projects (69th and 65th villages) by 1973. They had gunmen and lookouts on rooftops, houses for counting the cash, heroin processing units, and workers with walkie-talkies who directed the traffic. Drugs and cash were never in the same place at the same time. Customers approached the traffic controllers who instructed them on where they were to go to pay. They walked down an alleyway where a water hose was dropped from an upper level window that received an order via radio and then sent the product down the water house. Using the heroin on the premises or hanging around resulted in a beating or death. Members patrolled the territory in 4-door Chevy Impalas and sported covatis style haircuts. It was an operation earning $5-12 million annually and Felix Mitchell became a multi-millionaire by his early 20s. He was convicted in a RICO case in 1983.
It's main rivals were two other black drug gangs with which it competed and warred for control of the heroin trade. One was Funktown USA led by Harvey "Big Wiz" Whisenton that had ties to the militant black prison gang, the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF). Which ended up becoming by the mid 1980s the largest and most violent drug ring in Oakland up to that time. It had contracted out to the BGF to act as its enforcers in their drug turf. The other one was The Family which was led by a former soul singer, Milton "Mickey Mo" Moore. The Family was truly a family-run enterprise which was led by the four Mo brothers who enlisted their uncles, aunts, cousins, and nephews into the business. It purchased an apartment building which became their headquarters with most of the family members living as tenants. It was earning millions every year.
The penultimate machine was the Acorn Mob led by Larry P. It was a syndicate which dealt in both heroin and crack cocaine. Every day, $10,000 bundles of heroin ($10 balloons of heroin, 1000 balloons) and crack cocaine ($20 rocks, 500 rocks) were passed out. Drugs were packaged in designated apartments by employees whose only job was packaging, field marshals dropped off product and collected cash, spitters (who kept heroin in mouth) stashed the drugs and handed it out to the customers who approached them, gunners remained close to the dealers with guns out for protection, shooters were on balconies or rooftops with shotguns or high-powered rifles, and lookouts with radios (walkie-talkies) were placed on corners or patrolled on bicycles. All employees had a shift, either day or night. The boss provided the drugs and money, and paid employees a weekly salary. The only thing Larry P did was discuss prices over the phone and touched the money. He had several lieutenants who were the ones who handled the drugs. The syndicate had a fleet of cars, all of the exact same model, company vehicles which were available to all members. In 1985, the Acorn Mob controlled 12 housing projects and the organization continued into the 1990s.
New York Drug GangsEdit
The black mafia in the Big Apple started with the heroin syndicates of the 1960s-70s. Several emerged during that time, and three of them became infamous during that era.
The first and biggest of the black heroin drug lords of Harlem was Frank "Black Caesar" Matthews. He used to work in numbers and then in 1965 switched to the drug trade using a Cuban drug supplier. By the late 1960s he had established a major heroin syndicate and by the early 1970s he controlled a multi-million dollar heroin empire that spanned 21 states from Connecticut to Alabama to Missouri to the Midwest. He controlled an organization that cut, packaged, and sold heroin in every major city on the East Coast. In NY City, over in Brooklyn were two big heroin mills, each with walls that were reinforced with concrete and steel, and were protected by men armed with sub-machine guns and assault rifles. Within a year and a half, he moved 100-150 kilos of heroin into New York. The organization consisted of blacks and Latinos only as he refused to work with whites, and his underbosses were majority black with some Latinos. He supplied major drug dealers on the East Coast with multi-kilo shipments of heroin. In 1971 he organized a meeting of the country's major black and Latino drug traffickers in Atlanta, in an attempt to break the Italian stranglehold on the drug trade by using Corsican and Cuban suppliers for heroin and cocaine. Another such conclave followed in 1972. In 1973 he was arrested, posted bail, and then disappeared.
A contemporary of Frank Matthews was Frank Lucas who operated in the late 1960s and early 70s. He bypassed the Italians by establishing a direct connection to the Golden Triangle, and therefore because he bypassed the middlemen he received heroin that had not been diluted. Frank Lucas established the Country Boys a drug syndicate which was run by his extended family as he brought to New York from North Carolina his relatives and close friends to help him run the operation. In charge of each of the drug distribution operations in the greater NY area where one of his brothers. It was a syndicate that focused on quality control when it came to the business. Making sure the heroin they sold was of the highest quality, marketing it under a specific name, and making sure each packet was consistent in form and quality. Frank Lucas would go as far as disguising himself and monitoring his dealers on the street to make sure they were following the rules. Unlike most of the major black drug traffickers of the time, he preferred to dress in conservatively in a corporate manner and eschewed the flashy lifestyle. At the peak of the syndicate's power, it was claimed that it was making over $350 million a year. Frank Lucas was worth $52 million at the time of his arrest in 1975. Following his conviction in 1976 he testified against others in the drug underworld leading to over 100 drug related convictions.
In the early 1970s there was The Council which consisted of 7 major drug dealers in Harlem. It operated from 1972 to 1983, and was supplied with heroin by the Italian Lucchese Family. The Council which was led by Nicky Barnes who modeled the organization on the Italian Mafia. It controlled the heroin trade in Harlem, adjudicated criminal disputes in Harlem, and other drug-related matters. The Council distributed heroin in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and eventually as far north as Canada and as far west as Arizona. Nicky Barnes himself had 7 lieutenants, each of which controlled a dozen mid-level drug distributors who in turn supplied up to 40 retail-level dealers. Known as "Mr. Untouchable" due to emerging victorious from court cases, he reached a net worth of $40 million and was a gangster who craved the media spotlight, wore flashy expensive clothes (e.g. fur coats), and owned many expensive cars. He was finally convicted in 1978 and a few years later turned on the Council, becoming a federal informant. 
By the mid-1980s, the black heroin syndicates of NY City were gone. Crack cocaine had brought a new dynamic of numerous independent crack dealers and small drug dealing operations. Which changed with the emergence of the first crack syndicates, Dominican and black. The first black crack syndicate was Supreme Team. Which was established when two black street gangs merged in 1983 and was influenced by the Islamic splinter group and Afro supremacist group, Five-Percent Nation. The Supreme Team was led by Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff. The Supreme Team was a highly sophisticated operation with a structure that consisted of a second-in-command, a supervisor for the production of crack and it's delivery to sales location, a supervisor for the drug operations who also kept records, two supervisors for the worker crews who also managed the retail spots, and one head of security. The gang's leadership was insulated by layers of drug sellers. It was an operation that worked 24 hours a day and 7 days a week that had a compartmentalized structure. Which at each of the packaging sites, it had dozens of nude workers bagging crack. The syndicate had four crews that dealt crews, each led by a lieutenant and there was competition among the crews for drug sales. When it came to the crack, a color coded system was used for the crack vials and each color corresponded to one of the lieutenants. It's street dealers had to follow specific rules. For example they had dealers at a handball court. Dealers weren't permitted to cross a line to sell crack, but had to wait for the crack heads to come to their spot who called out what color of crack they wanted.
It used Five-Percenter mathematics and alphabets in its coded messages and to inspire loyalty or rebellion. The organization had over 200 members and within the Southside of Queens sold crack and ran protection rackets. Crack was sold from 9-10 sale locations and its members patrolled their turf in bulletproof vehicles. At the peak of their power in 1987 they were making $200,000 a day and selling 25,000 crack vials a week in an operation earning over $50 million a year. The organization had a security team dressed in black army fatigues and jackets, baseball hats, and bulletproof vests who were armed with automatic weapons and traveled in minivans. They executed SWAT-style raids on rivals, storming their homes. In 1987, Gerald "Prince" Miller took over in after the arrest and conviction of his uncle Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff. Under his leadership the level of violence increased exponentially as he used it far more often than his uncle, both against rivals and toward those that he perceived be disloyal within the organization. The security team became a tool of terror to be used on those he perceived as threats to his power. He had the gang seize control of housing project apartments and entire floors, which they used as bases to sell drugs. They turned the Baisley Park Houses which had been their home base from the beginning into a high rise crackhouse via the 3rd floor. Lookouts equipped with walkie-talkie radios were deployed on rooftops.
Philly's Black MafiaEdit
In the city of Brotherly Love, a black syndicate emerged in the early to mid 1960s, the Black Mafia. It was a highly structured criminal organization which consisted of three levels; the Board, the officers, and the crews or gangs at the street-level. The board held regular meetings, some of which were general meetings and others were executive meetings. General meetings had 40-60 members attending, written procedures governed the meetings, attendance rosters were kept, and so were minutes of the meetings. Those transported to executive meetings were blindfolded and if sensitive items were to be discussed they were ordered out of the room.
The Black Mafia had extensive ties to the Nation of Islam, specifically Philadelphia's Minister Jeremiah X. Shabazz who was also a major drug trafficker. Most of the leaders and heavyweights within the Black Mafia were important individuals in Temple 12 of the Nation of Islam. In turn the Fruit of Islam which was the paramilitary group protecting Shabazz and the mosques, had many Black Mafia soldiers within their ranks. Eventually a sort of merger occurred in the city, which resulted in the Black Mafia having 200 members. It was an ultra-violent organization, committing massacres including one in which a household of 7 were killed including 4 toddlers ranging in age from 9 days to 22 months who were drowned
In the beginning its source of income was the extorting criminal entrepreneurs (e.g. drug dealers, pimps, etc) and later also legitimate businesses. In 1970 they started trafficking drugs and their biggest supplier was the NY drug kingpin Frank Matthews. The Black Mafia established three "non-profit" community in the early 1970s which acted as fronts. The most infamous one "Black B. Inc" organized social functions for black youths which were used to sell drugs. They had them wear black shirts with the organization's name, while they were involved in extortion and drug rackets. Throughout the 70s, they also ran scams, fraudulently obtaining federal funding. By the early to mid 1970s it had begun to fracture, and the organization fragmented in the early 1980s.
In the mid-1980s, under the guidance of the incarcerated members of the Black Mafia, their children formed the Junior Black Mafia (JBM) which was formed to reestablish their control over Philadelphia and keep the Jamaican Posses out. At its peak the organization has 60-75 members, with decisions made by 10-15 hard core members. Each of them had 20-30 workers (associates) under them. They sold cocaine and heroin to over 45 street gangs, distributing 200-300 kilos of cocaine per month and an unknown amount of heroin which earned JBM a minimum of $25 million a year. The syndicate had ties to the Italian Mafia in Philadelphia, the Scarfo family. It's reign in Philadelphia lasted till 1991, when the feds took them down.
Miami Drug GangsEdit
Out of the Magic City, emerged a paramilitary syndicate during the crack years. In southern Florida they were known as the Untouchables. Which was a formal gang that was established in 1985 in the Carol City and Liberty City neighborhoods of Dade County. Police pressure forced many of them to leave. The gang evolved into a loosely organized group of crack dealers who eschewed tattoos and graffiti. Soon locals in other cities would give them name, Miami Boys. They spread up the state of Florida and into Georgia and Alabama. Becoming major retail-level distributors of crack cocaine in the cities of Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonvile, and Pensacola in Florida, the city of Montgomery in Alabama, and the city of Savannah in Georgia. By late 1986, they had become the largest crack distributors in Atlanta, Georgia where they took over housing projects and were seen on the streets with guns and walkie-talkies. Soon they spread to rural towns and cities with populations in the 10s of thousands. The gang's distribution network was based in Miami, Florida. Though by the mid-1990s they had been extinguished in Atlanta due to its efforts to clean up the city and suppress the crack trade in preparation for the Olympics. The last of the major Miami Boys dealers was convicted in 1999.
It was a paramilitary organization that deployed advance men into new markets, had lieutenants that controlled "quadrants", employed kids as lookouts, and whose dealers worked independently. In the city of Atlanta were 7 factions which operated independently but were loosely linked to each other and occasionally cooperated. Their paramilitary structure consisted of captain in each faction who was the liaison with the supply source (Miami) and with each faction in Atlanta. Two lieutenants had the responsibility of distributing the drugs and collecting the cash. Each in turn controlled two sergeants who were in charge of the street-level employees (dealers, enforcers, couriers, and lookouts). They recruited members in southern Florida who were then relocated to Atlanta. Member assignments were determined by the length of time in the Miami Boys. The gang's members were known for wearing gold chains and diamond jewelry, having gold capped teeth, wearing Hurricanes and Dolphins clothing, and driving Mercedes and Porsche. Gangsters who openly displayed firearms (even SMGs and assault rifles) to intimidate rival dealers and the local residents, while they sold crack which was done in 12 hour shifts, 24 hours a day.
Back in Miami, a new drug gang rose to power in the 1990s. The Boobie Boys was a drug gang that built a $80 million drug empire that smuggled 5 tons of cocaine from Panama and the Bahamas. Their supply of coke was feeding the cocaine markets in over 25 cities in Florida and 12 states. It was a gang which slaughtered its enemies, blasting them indiscriminately with AK-47s. During an 8-yr period, they murdered 35 and committed 100 shootings in Miami. While they were trafficking drugs to markets elsewhere, they were fighting a ferocious multi-sided war in Miami with rival drug gangs (Vonda's Gang, the Thomas Family, and the John Does). A bitter gang war that led to the downfall of all four, as it brought down a massive crackdown by law enforcement.
LA's Original GangstersEdit
The City of Angels did not produce any corporate gangs or super gangs. In it's local drug scene, local gangsters and independent drug dealers established crack syndicates which controlled dozens of crack houses in the city. Some of these were multi-state drug distribution networks, in which the drug that was being trafficked to other states was not only cocaine but also crack.
In Los Angeles, the crack kingpins emerged from various sets of the Crips and Bloods, two gang subcultures in the black communities. The biggest, most innovative, and most famous of these kingpins was Ricky Donnell Ross (Freeway Rick Ross) who handled 100 kilos of cocaine a week. He was not a member of a gang but his operation was in Hoover Crips territory and therefore ended up employing them. Freeway Rick wore expensive clothing and drove flashy cars. It was claimed that his organization was at its peak making $3 million per day in South Central Los Angeles, earning nearly about $1 billion in a year. The network of crackhouses were supplied by five "cookhouses" where restaurant-sized gas ranges had huge steel vats in which cocaine bubbled, producing huge chunks of rock cocaine the size of footballs or basketballs which were broken down. His operation trafficked drugs as far east as the Carolinas and Indiana, and as far north as Seattle. It used police scanners and voice scramblers.
Other multi-million crack cocaine operations in LA's black underworld that spanned multiple cities and sometimes were multi-states included those of Leroy "Chico" Brown and "Fat Pat" Johnson of the Compton Corner Pocket Crips, Wayne Alfred "Honcho" Day of the Watts Grape Street Crips, Rene McGowan and Michael "Harry-O" Harris from the Bounty Hunter Bloods, Tony "Bogart" of PJ Watts Crips, and Elrader "Ray Ray Browning" of the Pasadena Denver Lane Bloods. These kingpins controlled the crack trade in Compton, Inglewood, South Central Los Angeles, Watts, and Lynwood.
Two of the crack kingpins were affiliated with the Black Guerrilla Family a militant black prison gang which got involved in the crack trade in the northern parts of Los Angeles and in West Oakland, which were Elrader "Ray Ray Browning" in Pasadena and Jeffrey A. Bryant's organization in San Fernando Valley. In the mid-1980s, two warring rival crack syndicates, the Four Trey Gangster Crips-run Third World and the Steve "Whitey" Robinson-controlled Whitey Enterprises had a combined 130 crack houses in South Central Los Angeles (a 16 sq mile region). Each crack house earned $1000s daily and the syndicates employed 1000s of teenage gang members in their operations and drug war.
Over in Houston, Johnny Binder Jr (Big J) dominated the crack trade in Houston in the 1980s. Where he controlled up to 80% of the crack trade, making up to $7,000 a day. He was known for wearing expensive jewelry, an all-female entourage, and traveling in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. He used a variety of crackhouses, including night clubs that doubled as crack dealing centers. In Washington DC was Rayful Edmond (Mr. Dunbar) who introduced crack cocaine to the city and was responsible for turning it for a time into the murder capital of the United States. He was bringing in a 100 kilos of cocaine a month into the capital and controlled up to 30% of the crack trade.
Due to where African-Americans were concentrated and the location of historically documented Black urban street gangs which became major players in the drug rackets, any independent African-American ethnic mafias which still exist or African-American crime families that are part of the American Mafia would most likely be located in the UCAS (NY City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, and New Jersey), the CAS (Atlanta), the PCC (Los Angeles), or CalFree (Oakland).
The African-American underworld's glory days was short-lived and have been eclipsed (along with the Italians) by the multi-tier Latino underworld of Mexican drug cartels, Chicano prison gangs, and Latino street gangs. The urban ghetto syndicates (e.g. Frank Matthew's Country Boys) which were involved in heroin trafficking were major players during the 1960s-70 but most never managed to expand out of the ghetto and the majority were still reliant on the Italians for their heroin. Most importantly in most cities, the black drug barons did not join forces and they failed to form a regional much less national syndicate. The urban crack syndicates (e.g. the Chambers Brothers of Detroit and the Junior Black Mafia of Philadelphia) of the 1980s-90s likewise were basically ghetto outfits which never formed regional syndicates. The crack dealing super-gangs of Chicago and Los Angeles (e.g. the Gangster Disciples and Crips) expanded across the country in the 1980s-90s but failed to establish national syndicates (except for the Gangster Disciples) and most of those black super gangs even failed to form a united organization (e.g. the Crips who were infamous for Crips warring with other Crips) resulting in them being eclipsed by the Latino super gangs.
The reason for the failure of the "black mafia" are many. Though they were more dynamic and sophisticated than Chicano prison gangs or the drug trafficking organizations of the Mexicans and Dominicans, the Latino syndicates in the long run had the advantage in that they were low profile compared to the African-American criminal groups. As they used less violence (at least north of Mexico), mostly shunned the media, and weren't into flashy jewelry, clothing, homes, or cars as much as the black gangsters. In fact the Chicano prison gangs even directed their street soldiers in the Latino street gangs to stop being so obvious as in no more tattoos on the face and neck, cover up the tattoos on the arms and don't wear "gangster" clothing when on business, don't emulate the black gangs with their jewelry and "pimped out" cars, and so on. Likewise though the average black gangster was a more enterprising businessman than the Chicano gangster, he was more likely to be betrayed by his fellow black gangster than the Latino gangster as they were less willing to do serious prison time for their fellow gang members, and the average young black gangster was less willing to recognize the authority of older veteran gangsters compared to a Latino gangster (especially those who recently got out of prison).
Unfortunately for the African-American underworld, racism and subconscious fear of blacks meant that they were more likely to be pulled over, get raided, receive longer jail times, and experience gang crackdowns than the Latino underworld. Last but not least, the Latino syndicates controlled both the source of the drugs and the supply routes. The reality was that the Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers would rather do business with other Latinos if they had a choice and with the Dominican syndicates expanding throughout the East Coast and Chicano prison gangs organizing the Latino street gangs, they no longer had to deal with the black syndicates and gangs. In many areas, it is Chicano, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban drug traffickers who have become the middlemen who deal with the black gangs and syndicates, in which they supply them with drugs (at higher prices than what the Latino gangs pay for who often have a more direct connection).
African-American Syndicates (Research)Edit
- Chicago Tribune: Hoover and the Gangster Disciples of Chicago
- Chicago Tribune: Jeff Fort and the El Rukn of Chicago
- Miami New Times: Black Mafia Family of Atlanta
- Wikipedia: Black Mafia Family
- Ozy: Junior Black Mafia of Philadelphia
- Police Magazine: Black Guerilla Family
- Chicago Tribune: Chambers Brothers of Detroit
- Drug Lords of Oakland: The untold stories of California's most notorious Drug Kingpins of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s by Titus Lee Barnes
- The Supreme Team: The Birth of Crack and Hip-Hop, Prince’s Reign of Terror and the Supreme/50 Cent Beef Exposed by Seth Ferranti 
- BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family by Mara Shalhoup
- History Channel: Gangland, Season 1 Episode 1, The Council
- History Channel: Gangland, Season 2 Episode 9, Gangster, Inc (Gangster Disciples)
- History Channel: Gangland, Season 7 Episode 13, Death Before Dishonor (Black Mafia Family)
- BET: American Gangster, Season 1, Episode 6, Chambers Brothers (Detroit)
- BET: American Gangster, Season 2 Episode 1, Black Mafia (Philadelphia)
- BET: American Gangster, Season 2 Episode 2, Gangster Disciples (Chicago)
- BET: American Gangster, Season 2 Episode 7, El Rukns (Chicago)