Dream Books and Gamblers
About the BookUbiquitous illegal lotteries known as policy flourished in Chicago’s Black community during the overlapping waves of the Great Migration. Policy “queens” owned stakes in lucrative operations while women writers and clerks canvased the neighborhood, passed out winnings, and kept the books.
Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach examines the complexities of Black women’s work in policy gambling. Policy provided Black women with a livelihood for themselves and their families. At the same time, navigating gender expectations, aggressive policing, and other hazards of the informal economy led them to refashion ideas about Black womanhood and respectability. Policy earnings also funded above-board enterprises ranging from neighborhood businesses to philanthropic institutions, and Schlabach delves into the various ways Black women straddled the illegal policy business and reputable community involvement.
Vivid and revealing, Dream Books and Gamblers tells the stories of Black women in the underground economy and how they used their work to balance the demands of living and laboring in Black Chicago.
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* This publication is made possible with support from Furthermore grants in publishing, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
“Dream Books and Gamblers is a must read! Schlabach impressively weaves together a fascinating narrative about Chicago’s policy racket between 1890 and 1968. A major contribution to the fields of business and Black women’s histories, Schlabach illuminates Black women’s important and multifaceted role in urban gambling enterprises. Dream Books and Gamblers is certain to transform our understanding of African American history, leaving scholars with new ways of researching and discussing Black life and culture.”--LaShawn Harris, author of Sex Workers, Psychics, and Numbers Runners