Godfather of Harlem is a praiseworthy effort at portraying the true story of Bumpy Johnson which began in October in 1905 in Charleston South Carolina where Bumpy was born under the name Ellsworth Raymond Johnson.
As a young Boy, Ellsworth Raymond Johnson was given the nickname “Bumpy” because of a bump on the back of his head.
Bumpy Johnson’s family subsequently moved North to Harlem when Bumpy Johnson was 10 years old in search of a better life.
Whilst in Harlem, Bumpy Johnson was involved in petty street crime and he spent a considerable amount of time in and out of jail. By the 1930s Bumpy Johnson had risen to the rank of Enforcer in the Crime organisation of Harlem Boss Stephanie St. Claire (“The Queen of Numbers.”)
Bumpy eventually ended up being the main Enforcer for the St. Claire Organisation and soon Bumpy became deeply embroiled in the Numbers racket turf War between Stephanie St. Claire and Jewish Mob Boss Dutch Shultz.
Dutch Shultz was later eliminated by Mafia Boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Bumpy Johnson then concluded a long lasting alliance with the Italian Mafia that would last until his death.
In 1952 Bumpy Johnson was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for dealing in Heroin but in 1963 Bumpy was released and he immediately returned to Harlem.
The Truth Of Bumpy Johnson’s Relationship With Malcolm X In Godfather Of Harlem
In Godfather Of Harlem, Bumpy Johnson is portrayed as a Politically astute Revolutionary Gangster who adopts the Political Philosophies of Malcolm X in his approach to his Criminal dealings.
Godfather Of Harlem presents Bumpy Johnson’s War with Italian Mobster Vincent The Chin Gigante for control of the ‘French Connection’ and Harlem’s Heroine Trade as a struggle for Black Self-Empowerment influenced by the teachings of Malcolm X.
In reality Bumpy Johnson and Malcolm X did have a relationship dating back to the 1940s when Malcolm X was a minor street hustler named “Detroit Red”.
Bumpy Johnson also reportedly provided Malcolm X with security when Malcolm X had separated from the Nation Of Islam although Malcolm X eventually declined a permanent Bodyguard from Bumpy Johnson’s organisation.
Only 2 weeks later, Malcolm X was assassinated allegedly by disgruntled members of the Nation of Islam.
It is not certain whether Bumpy Johnson viewed and pursued his Criminal Enterprise as part of a broader Political agenda of Black Self-Empowerment set against the backdrop of an America in transition during the Civil Rights era.
Nevertheless, Bumpy Johnson’s portrayal as a participant of the Black struggle for self-actualisation within the Criminal world is an interesting take on this aspect of American History.
It is definitely refreshing to watch a Crime Drama that places Black Organised Crime in its broader Historical and Political context in order to fully account for and explain the motivations of Historic Black Crime figures like Bumpy Johnson.
In real life Bumpy Johnson remained the Boss of Harlem until his death at the age of 62 in 1968.
All in all, the Bumpy Johnson story told in Godfather of Harlem is intriguing and compels us to view Bumpy Johnson’s actions through the lens of a broader Historical and Social context in a way we may otherwise not have done.