Forest Whitaker portrays gangster Bumpy Johnson in ‘Godfather of Harlem’
Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker will play Johnson in a new mini-series on the Epix cable channel entitled “Godfather of Harlem.”
In Harlem, Johnson worked against the Italian Mafia as it battled to take over the illegal gambling racket known in the community by various names including “the bug,” “policy,” or more colloquially as the “numbers game.”
Gangsters like Johnson were the brains and the muscle behind the racket and became rich. So rich they gave back to the community in several ways, from giving out turkeys on Thanksgiving, protection from crooked cops and even helping with funeral costs. The problem is, in some cases, Bumpy Johnson was the reason for the funeral in the first place.
But when the mafia decided that they wanted a piece of the action, Bumpy Johnson fought back with a fury. It resulted in a negotiated treaty and allowed Johnson to make money from the heroin trade in Harlem. Johnson’s criminal activities saw him arrested more than 40 times, including two federal arrests that saw him serve serious time. After a ten year sentence, he
Bumpy Johnson died on July 7, 1968, at the age of 62. He was having a meal that included coffee, a chicken leg, and grits, at Wells Restaurant in Harlem at 2 a.m. He clutched his chest and died of an apparent massive heart attack as his meal was being served.returned to Harlem and saw the streets in turmoil. Not only did he need to get his criminal empire back in order, he realized he needed to help the community. Johnson even met with Malcolm X to handle situations regarding police abuse and corruption,