Black Spades

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For the playing card of the name Black Spade, see Playing card.
Black Spades
Founded 1968
Years active 1968 to present
Territory Soundview, Bronx, New York

The Black Spades were a mostly African American street gang started in New York City during the 1970s. The gang began to spread out of the Bronx to Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey and Connecticut in the late 1980s. After this period Hispanic and white members were common.


The gang originated in 1968 in the Bronxdale Houses in the Soundview section of the Bronx as the Savage Seven. As the gang grew, they changed their name to the Black Spades. The gang quickly spread to nearby housing projects and throughout the Bronx, with divisions in almost every precinct and they had over 50 divisions in New York State alone.

In the 1970s the various gangs had their own music. They walked ("bopped") around with a box radio, starting a subculture inviting music in the lives of gang members. The Black Spades were also participants in the Hoe Avenue peace meeting.

The organization had a strong following through the late 1990s. Around this time many young members of the organization transitioned their membership to the bloods street gang of NYC.

Hip hop culture[edit]

New York street gang activity peaked in 1973, and then began to decline. Reasons for this decline included violence with other gangs, drug use, members leaving because the gangs became too large and members following Afrika Bambaataa into the Universal Zulu Nation.

Times were also changing, park jams, block parties and clubs were becoming more popular. The beginnings of hip hop culture began to form in these venues, and as gang members and former gang members started getting involved in more Hip Hop activities, involvement in the gangs declined.

Kool DJ Herc, an early hip hop music pioneer, credits gangs like the Black Spades with getting the hip hop scene started.

Afrika Bambaataa was the warlord of the Black Spades before becoming a famous hip hop DJ. He later went on to form the Universal Zulu Nation on November 12, 1973;[1] Many Black Spades gang members followed Afrika Bambaataa into the group.



See also[edit]