Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners

Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners : Black Women in New York City's Underground Economy

4.5 (16 ratings by Goodreads)
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During the early twentieth century, a diverse group of African American women carved out unique niches for themselves within New York City's expansive informal economy. LaShawn Harris illuminates the labor patterns and economic activity of three perennials within this kaleidoscope of underground industry: sex work, numbers running for gambling enterprises, and the supernatural consulting business. Mining police and prison records, newspaper accounts, and period literature, Harris teases out answers to essential questions about these women and their working lives. She also offers a surprising revelation, arguing that the burgeoning underground economy served as a catalyst in working-class black women (TM)s creation of the employment opportunities, occupational identities, and survival strategies that provided them with financial stability and a sense of labor autonomy and mobility. At the same time, urban black women, all striving for economic and social prospects and pleasures, experienced the conspicuous and hidden dangers associated with newfound labor opportunities.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 280 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 22.86mm | 498.95g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252081668
  • 9780252081668
  • 1,765,862

Review quote

"A masterful compilation of criminal justice system records, archival newspaper accounts, and period-specific literature. . . . The book is a comprehensive and highly impressive analytical account of a diverse set of black women, and should be regarded as one of the foremost additions to the literature in its field."--Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

"This text goes a long way to articulating the major role that black women informal workers played in contributing to the wider American economy in the early twentieth century, and further challenging taken for granted conceptions of black womanhood, and gender role expectations."--Ethnic and Racial Studies "This book is a well-researched and valuable perspective on black women's labor in New York City's early-twentieth-century informal economy. Such a groundbreaking study provides new insights about the existence, relevance, and diversity within the informal economy through a racialized and gendered lens. An impressive work of original research and analysis in African-American, urban, labor, and gender history."--Cheryl D. Hicks, author of Talk with You Like a Woman: African American Women, Justice, and Reform in New York, 1890-1935

"In Harris's beautifully written book, the stories of black women in New York who have been absent in historical narratives vividly come to life. Harris takes us on a fascinating journey of New York City unlike any we have ever seen."--Public Books "Harris has written an important work--perhaps the most important on African American women in the underground economy. Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners may well be a classic. It should be required reading for all interested in African American, criminal, social, urban, and women's histories, and other related disciplines."--Journal of American History

"This outstanding first monograph by historian Harris continues Deborah Gray White's 1987 call for historians to reclaim the voices of African American women lost in the margins... Highly Recommended."--Choice
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About Lashawn Harris

LaShawn Harris is an assistant professor of history at Michigan State University.
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Rating details

16 ratings
4.5 out of 5 stars
5 75% (12)
4 6% (1)
3 12% (2)
2 6% (1)
1 0% (0)
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