American Gangster: Season 2
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American Gangster: Season 2

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This country of ours has been called the melting pot. People from all over the world came here; some out of desperation, others hoping for a better life and then there are those brought by force. No matter our ancestors got here or when and how they came very few started out at the apex of society. Most of the time all ethnic, religious or racial groups were considered too low in class to be part of decent society. This would take the shape of signs in windows clearly proclaiming ‘No Irish Need Apply’ to separate drinking fountains. This would cut off that group from the rest of the people forcing them to fend on their own. Frequently the results were the same; the creation of some type of organized crime syndicate. Through films, novels and television the most famous of these criminal enterprises were typically shown as Italian. Lately there has been some degree of focus on similar groups in the Irish, Russian and Asian communities. The television series ‘American Gangster’ looked at organized crime lords in the African American communities. Like most such stories this is all about the American dream taking a decidedly wrong turn. Most hope for a better life than the previous generation. They scrimp and save, work multiple jobs just to make sure their children have a degree of financial security that was unimaginable for them. Others take a different way to secure personal power and wealth; they turn to crime. The men shown in this series have one thing in common. They intelligent, have a business savvy that would be the envy of the corporate world, determination and unstoppable drive. Normally traits like this would ensure success in any legal endeavor but like other groups that came before and those that will follow such illegitimate means of becoming successful were just not readily available to them. This series produced and aired by BET is not just for African American audiences. There is a reflection of each of us in these biographies; they are part of the more sinister side of human nature. The second season of this incredible series is now available on DVD through Paramount Home Entertainment.

Philly Black Mafia

All ten episodes of the second season are here and narrated by the rich, deep voice of Ving Rhames. Using reenactments and video footage the stories are recanted in often brutal detail. Just a warning here; this is not for younger viewers. The first episode looks at the Philly Black Mafia. Based, of course, in Philadelphia was not as wide spread as their namesake but it was every bit as dangerous and lethal. They were know to ensure their control through such measures as cutting off a man head leaving in one spot and his body in another. One of their more heinous crimes was killing a house full of people. The adults were shot, the children, between the ages of seven days to three years, where drowned in the bathtub. They were ostensibly connected with the Nation if Islam and initially formed to opposed the growing presence of the regular mob in their streets. They controlled drugs, gambling and prostitution in the city. They reached their height of power in the mid seventies. They were also extremely well organized and structured.

Larry Hoover

Chicago based Hoover was a larger than lie figure; almost a legend. He was known for his brutality and uncompressing nature. He would kill or order someone to be killed with little or no provocation. He was a charismatic individual who could talk an otherwise rational person to doing anything Hoover required. At the peak of his time in power Hoover was the leader of the Black Gangster Disciple Nation. He was able to use his smooth way of talking to form an alliance between his gang and others in the area. Aeven when he was convicted and sent to prison he control his people on both sides of the prison walls. He even orchestrated a prison riot resulting in the deaths of several of the guards.

Melvin Williams

Better known as Little Melvin he was one of the major criminals in Baltimore. He was known for an astronomical intelligence which he used to organize and control the drug trafficking in the city. He practically reinvented the heroin trade with his complex and orderly means of purchase, import and distribution methods. Over his thirty years in the drug trade he accumulated immense power and millions in wealth. He ultimately spent over 26 years in prison and upon his release became a social activist with programs to help young people from making the same mistake he did.

The DC Snipers

Also known as the Beltway snipers this pair were technically not gangsters or part of organized crime. They did hold an entire region of the nation hostage to fear and suspicion. It all started in February 2002. The nation was still reeling over the all too recent events of September 11, 2001. When people where being shot by an unseen sniper the first thoughts were towards another act of terrorism. Later it would be discovered that the sniper was a man, John Allen Muhammad and a boy, Lee Boyd Malvo. They would set up the sniper attacks from their blue Chevrolet Caprice sedan. By they time they were captured and their killing spree ended they had murdered 16 innocent people.

Frank Lucas

One of the most infamous men considered in this season was Lucas. Most will know the name from the film ‘American Gangster’ where this criminal master mind was portrayed by Denzel Washington. He was the undisputed crime lord of New York’s Harlem neighborhood and was a brilliant as he was brutal. He came up with the idea of smuggling heroin from Southeast Asia to the United States by using the coffins of soldiers killed in Viet Nam. He became a multimillionaire generous to his family and friends and unforgiving to his enemies.

Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff

The eighties was a time of innovation and excess. McGriff was a drug trafficker who realized the future of his business was in a fairly new type of drug, Crack Cocaine. He was based in the Jamaica section of Queens, New York and it was from there that he ruled his organization, ‘The Supreme Team’. At its peak his illicit business was raking in well over $200,000 a day. \

These are only a few of the stories presented here but each of them is fascinating. The shame was most of these men had more than enough talent and ability to make it in any field they chose; they decided to go into crime. BET is rapidly gaining a reputation for amazing production values that are appealing to anyone who can appreciate quality.

Posted 05/24/08

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