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LaGrange Country Boy to Harlem Gangster

American Gangster PosterOn November 2, 2007American Gangster, a film starring Denzel Washington based on the life of North Carolina native Frank Lucas, was released to wide acclaim.

Born near LaGrange in 1930, Lucas saw his older cousin lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in 1936 for looking at a white woman walking down the street. He credited that moment with launching him into a life of crime.

Already a criminal at age 16, Lucas moved to Harlem, which he’d been told was the “promised land” for African Americans, in 1946 . His crime spree in New York began with thievery but soon descended into murder and drugs. In the

Lucas’s 1975 federal mugshot.

 1960s and 1970s, Lucas “owned” his neighborhood in Harlem, buoyed by his fearlessness and by the locals’ addiction to his particular brand of heroin. A rather flamboyant gangster, his signature was a $50,000 chinchilla coat with 

matching $10,000 hat.

Lucas brought five brothers into the family “business.” Calling them the “Country Boys,” he said that city boys were not reliable and that he could only trust good old country folks. First arrested in 1975, Lucas never served more than a few years behind bars, trading information for time. Although many details in the movie are disputed, it conveys the likable nature of the country boy, Frank Lucas.

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