The Black Mafia, a Philadelphia-based organized crime syndicate whose small beginnings started from holding up crap games and dealing in the illegal drug business, was formed in September 1968 by Samuel Christian, who later adopted the name Suleiman Bey under the Nation of Islam, and was at its height of operation until about 1975. Additional founding members included Ronald Harvey, Henry Dabney, Richard "Pork Chops" James, Donald "Donnie" Day, Robert "Bop Daddy" Fairbanks, Craig "Heist" Jones, Walter Hudgins, Robert "Nudie" Mims amongst others.
They gained power in local neighborhoods by intimidating people to prevent anyone from reporting the group's activities to the police. Because of this, police had incredible difficulty taking any action on the gang or any of its members for years after their conception. Members participated in holding up crap games and extorting drug dealers, working as numbers men and illegitimate businessmen. Over the course of their control, the mafia was responsible for over 40 murders and countless other crimes.
The "Black Mafia," was formed to coordinate and consolidate historic black crime in numbers, prostitution, and extortion of legitimate businesses, while combining with the rising drug demand in Philadelphia. It can be argued that their success drove legitimate black business and capital, such as the numerous successful African American owned banks, medical practices, stores, landlords, and other African American businesses to escape the city as segregation pressures faded. Angelo Bruno, the don of the Philadelphia crime family, discouraged drug dealing in South Philadelphia, but could not prevent deals being made by the New York mafia families such as the Gambino Crime Family, which were doing business with the growing black organized crime that became the Black Mafia until black New York drug lord Frank Mathews became their supplier. Bruno turned away from renegades who "did business" with, or supplied, the black drug lords, so long as they met their financial obligations to him and to the New York families. In fact, a rough outline of Italian organized crime (OC) east of Broad Street, with Black OC west of Broad Street became a shorthand to describe South Philadelphia's hidden forces for decades, damning efforts at urban renewal.
Black Mafia membership continued to increase within the two years following its inception. Moving up in the Mafia's hierarchy was almost impossible without being a member of the Nation of Islam. Black Mafia members seemed to be involved in the religion because it was more of a symbol of their strength than a belief system. Many even joined the faith as a form of protection, as local temples were responsible for picking up protection money from members, and were taught in the criminal methods of the streets. Jeremiah Shabazz owned bakeries and food stores through the first Philadelphia NOI mosque or masjid. This masjid would later be publicly criticized by NOI leadership in Chicago for drawing too much attention to itself as a "gangster" mosque. Recent academic works in criminal justice are filling in the gaps using FBI, court, and police records to substantiate the long association of Shabazz (aka Jeremiah Pugh) with the growth of organized black crime in Philadelphia. Shabazz's west Philadelphia mosque boasted of the most prominent members of organized black crime in Philadelphia, members who were also high-ranking members of the mosque. The difficulty this precedent created would play out dramatically when the FBI overheard two high-level heroin dealers complain that they were being overly extorted by Shamsud-din Ali aka Clarence Fowler, the imam who had replaced Shabazz. That probe would land the drug investigation on the desk of then-mayor John F. Street, as Dawud Bey complained that the dealers "were out here hustling" while Shamsud-din Ali requested $5,000 to be delivered to Connie Little, former Democratic Ward leader, and John Street's Executive Secretary. "Cutty (Shamsud-din Ali's nickname, short for "cutthroat" for beating a murder rap of a well-known Reverend) ...be walking with kings," the dealers lamented. John Street escaped prosecution, but several of his key people drew successful federal prosecutions, ending their careers.
Structure, Methods 
The Black Mafia used formalized meetings, and legal incorporated nonprofits as cover, and imposed a hierarchy on its members in an attempt to create discipline among members. Members and associates were called "Part I" and low-ranking members were named "The Little Brothers." Members could move up in the chain of command according to certain established criteria. The meetings were organized at different locations between 1969 and 1975 based on this hierarchy, while later iterations of leadership did not wish to record activities on paper. As the gang gained local control, separate meetings were held for those holding positions of power and those that were general members. The average number of attendees ranged from 40-60 and minutes were taken during the course of the meetings. Many members were transported to and from meetings while blindfolded by more powerful members to avoid compromising the secrecy of the location.
As demonstrated by the manner in which meetings were run, oaths and rules were prevalent so that the group could avoid exposure. A secrecy oath was required to be taken by the members to ensure secrecy and that members would not disclose important information. The oath also swore to report any violations of the oath under risk to family and other members. A strict set of written rules were created to govern these meetings, as well. For example, each member upon entry to meetings was required to be searched by authorized members. Only the presiding member at the meeting was allowed to appoint who could carry weapons.
The mafia organized three different community service projects as a front to their criminal activity during their control. Other gangs posed a threat to the power of the Black Mafia, so organizations were created to combat gang violence, though mafia violence was still encouraged. One organization included Black B. Inc. Their aim was to put an end to gang activity in the African-American community. City residents and local law enforcement who saw the gang war unfolding in the streets, though, knew that the Black Mafia was behind the Council.
Infamous Crimes -- Many Remain Unsolved 
One of the first incidents to be attributed explicitly to the Black Mafia by law enforcement officials was the severe beating of Pennsylvania Deputy Insurance commissioner David Trulli in May 1969. Trulli, then investigating an insurance fraud case, was beaten with a lead pipe by Richard "Pork Chops" James apparently at the request of a third party. Trulli lost three teeth and required 26 stitches to close his wounds. Before James could be brought back from jail in New York City, where he had been arrested for murder on November 23, 1969, he died of a drug overdose. At the time of his death, James had a history of 32 arrests. Camden Police Department intelligence files state that James was sent to New York at the orders of Eugene "Bo" Baynes to fulfill a murder contract. While staying in New York, he had murdered a woman and a child and had wounded the man he was supposed to murder. The files state that James subsequent overdose in jail was in fact, a "hot shot" administered to him by other Black Mafia members. The Strike Force concluded the overdose was arranged to "ensure his silence in a Black Mafia related assault case".
One of the Black Mafia's most brutal, inexplicable crimes included the Dubrow Furniture Store robbery. On January 4, 1971, eight Black Mafia members robbed DuBrow's on South Street in Philadelphia. They entered the store one by one posing as customers. Once all were inside, they pulled guns on the twenty employees present and forced them to lie on the floor in the back of the store where they bound them with tape and electrical cord. Thirteen employees were beaten while two others were shot. A janitor who walked in on the robbery while doing his job was shot and killed. One employee was doused with gasoline and set on fire. After their vicious treatment of the employees, they looted the offices in the store and set more fires to destroy evidence of the robbery. The eight criminals fled the scene as soon as the fire alarm went off, purposefully trampling on one of the victim's bodies as they left. This crime was so brutal that W.E.B. Griffin wrote a novel based on it, The Witness, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo was quoted as saying that the DuBrow crime was "the most vicious crime I have ever come across.
The mafia also had their sights on high-up drug dealers and crime leaders. Tyrone Palmer, known as "Mr. Millionaire", was shot on Easter Sunday of 1972 in Atlantic City, New Jersey by associates of the Black Mafia. Palmer, a big-time cocaine and heroin dealer and the primary Philadelphia area contact for New York drug dealers, was shot right in the face in plain view of 600-900 people at the Club Harlem, by Black Mafia founding member, Sam Christian. Before Palmer's bodyguards could defend themselves, the mafia opened fire in the club wounding 20 people. In addition to Palmer, three women and one of Palmer's bodyguards were killed.
By far the most well-known act of crime that the Black Mafia carried out, the Hanafi Murders was what gained them national media attention. The site of this crime was Los Angeles Lakers basketball player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's, house in Washington D.C. On January 18, 1973, the mafia murdered 7 Hanafi Muslims. Two adults and five children, aging 9 days to 10 years, were murdered. The adults and one child were shot while the other children were drowned. The intended target of this crime was Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, of the Hanafi Muslims, for a letter he had written to the Black Muslims claiming that Elijah Muhammad was a false prophet and that certain members of Elijah Muhammad's NOI were merely gangsters who were harming the name of Islam. The difficulty in obtaining evidence to successfully prosecute the crime fomented a breakdown by Khaalis as he sought to draw attention to the case of his murdered family.
By 1973, the Mafia were beginning to lose anonymity due to the increasing scale of their crimes and the increase law enforcement and media attention. The Philadelphia Inquirer, as cited in Sean Griffin's "Philadelphia's Black Mafia: a Social and Political History," reported, "The Black Mafia is real. It is not a cop fantasy, newspaperman's pipe dream or movie myth. It is a black crime syndicate that has been growing unchecked in Philadelphia for the past five years. It has expanded and evolved into a powerful crime cartel with chains of command, enforcers, soldiers, financiers, regular business meetings and assigned territories. It specializes in narcotics, extortion and murder, with minor interests in loan sharking, numbers and prostitution. It has a war chest that bankrolls drugs and gambling and buys the best lawyers.
The original Black Mafia's power was beginning to fracture, though, by 1974. In September 1974, 21 members and group affiliates were arrested in an early morning raid by federal drug agents and the Justice Department's crime strike force. The Black Mafia would fracture and reform several more times, each generation remaking itself more light, agile, and deadly, with growing political influence.
One rumored source of information that led to a bust was community activist Charles Robinson, a member of a community group that became heavily dominated by Black Mafia members while taking government grants. Robinson, as informant, states that he feared for his family as Black Mafia influence grew. He likely also wisely feared the inevitable investigation into the use of the funds.. Robinson was a brother-in-law to mafia member James Fox. Fox allegedly had been intimidating Robinson's family, specifically his mother. Evidence was gained from 21 days of wiretapping mafia member's phone lines. Members were charged with different crimes including but not limited to heroin and cocaine distribution, rape, and murder.
This hardly ended the reign of terror. Philly's "don't snitch' culture can be attributed to the success of the BM in silencing whole communities so effectively that wiretapping would be the modus operandi of successful prosecutions.
Black Mafia Victims 
 These are the names of the identified victims who were murdered by the Black Mafia. This list is in chronological order.
|Nathaniel "Rock and Roll" Williams||1969||Murdered on the street after setting up a crap game for the Black Mafia and then robbing it.|
|Shane Albert||1971||Janitor shot during the Black Mafia's robbery of the Dubrow furniture store.|
|Wardell Green||1971||Shot by Black Mafia member, Russell Barnes, for unknown reasons.|
|Velma Green||1971||Shot to death answering her door a week before she was to testify against Russell Barnes in her brother Wardell's murder.|
|Richard "Red Paul" Harris||1972||Shot in a bar at 17th and Dauphin sts. in North Philadelphia for cheating James "P.I." Smith, on a narcotics deal.|
|James "P.I." Smith||1972||Shot in a parking lot at 3700 Brown St. in Philadelphia for cheating Tyrone "Fat Ty" Palmer on the Richard "Red Paul" Harris narcotics deal.|
|Tyrone "Fat Ty" Palmer, "Mr. Millionnare"||1972||Shot to death by Samuel Christian in Atlantic City's Club Harlem for drug related reasons involving both the Harris and Smith murders.|
|Gilbert Satterwhite||1972||Shot to death with Palmer while serving as his bodyguard.|
|James Boatright||1972||Shot to death in South Philadelphia for unknown reasons.|
|Seven Hanafi Muslims||1973||Shot or drowned in a bathtub by seven Black Mafia affiliates stemming from an ideological dispute with Black Muslims.|
|Major "The Maje" Coxson||1973||Shot in his home at Cherry Hill, New Jersey home by Ronald Harvey and other Black Mafia members for owing $200,000 from a botched heroin deal.|
|Charles Cooper||1973||Shot to death with two other women in a West Philadelphia apartment by Russell Barnes, through a contract by the Black Muslims and the Black Mafia.|
|Hilton Stroud||1973||Shot in Camden, New Jersey, for intercepting a drug shipment originally destined for Bo Baynes.|
|Walter Tillman||1973||Shot in Camden, New Jersey, for intercepting a drug shipment originally destined for Bo Baynes.|
|Thomas "Cadillac Tommy" Farrington||1973||Shot to death by Charles Russell, under contract by George "Bo" Abney, over a drug territory dispute.|
|Robert James||1973||Shot near his home for an unknown reason.|
|George "Bo" Abney||1974||Decapitated after the Black Mafia put out a hit on him for skimming narcotics proceeds from Thomas "Cadillac Tommy" Farrington's former drug distribution network.|
|Jeremiah Middleton||1974||Shot at 19th & Carpenter Sts. by Clarence Starks.|
|James Henry "Bubbles" Price||1974||Tortured and hanged in prison for turning states evidence against the Black Mafia in the Hanafi murder case. The rumor that Price had turned states evidence was started by the authorities in an effort to force his cooperation.|
|James Hadley||1976||Shot at 20th & Pierce Sts. by Jo-Jo Rhone over a dispute.|
|Louis Gruby||1976||Executed in his home for testifying against the Black Mafia in the Dubrow furniture store robbery case.|
|Yetta Gruby||1976||Executed with Louis in their home.|
|Barry Kelly||1980||Killed in retaliation for his father's incriminating testimony in a robbery/kidnapping case.|
|Frederick Armour||1980||Shot by Larris "Tank" Frazier over a territorial dispute in the Richard Allen Projects.|
Junior Black Mafia 
In the 1980s, younger relatives of the group created the "Junior Black Mafia" (JBM). The JBM formed to counter a wave of Jamaican gangsters who sought to control crack cocaine trafficking in Philadelphia. Like their older counterpart, the JBM was exceptionally violent and ruled through witness intimidation and murder. The leader of the JBM, Aaron Jones, is currently on death row in Pennsylvania. The remaining Black Mafia members often associate and work with the Philadelphia Italian Mafia. In 2010, Officials have reported that a relative of the late Russell Barnes who frequents Philadelphia and New York, is poised to take control, because of his close ties to Philadelphia's black mafia underworld and his ability to network and organize.
See also 
- The Council, the drug syndicate run by Nicky Barnes
- Black Mafia Family, drug organization headed by Demetrius and Terry Flenory.
- Scarfo crime family
- Frank Matthews (drug trafficker), major supplier who briefly moved in on the Black Mafia's city.
- Griffin, Sean Patrick. "Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia." Milo.
- Griffin, Sean. Philadelphia's Black Mafia: A Social and Political History. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.
- Griffin, Sean Patrick. Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia. Milo.
- Griffin, Sean Patrick (2005). Black Brothers Inc. United States: Milo Books, Ltd. p. 328. ISBN 978-1-903854-36-5.
- Griffin, Sean. Philadelphia's Black Mafia: A Social and Political History. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.
- Griffin, Sean Patrick. Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Black Mafia Leicester, UK: Milo Books Ltd., 2005.
- King, John W. The Breeding of Contempt: Account of the Largest Mass Murder in Washington, D.C. History, Xlibris Publishing 2003.
- City Paper, "Allah Behind Bars: Even La Cosa Nostra members fear the Nation of Islam in jail", Brendan McGarvey, November 7–13, 2002. http://joost.com/075000k