Have you ever heard of a lottery system called “the Numbers”? I hadn’t. But Bridgett Davis grew up watching her mother expertly “run the numbers”, providing her neighbors with access to an illegal lottery. In doing so, Fannie Davis was able to give her a children opportunities they may not have had otherwise.
“The word secret is so loaded, suggests its country cousin shame; but I wasn’t ashamed of anything because our family secret wasn’t dark and my mother acted neither apologetic nor embarrassed.”
Bridgett always had a vague sense of what her mother did for a living, though she didn’t really research it until her mother had passed. At that point, she felt comfortable approaching other family members for information about her mother’s illegal business. At first, she was worried about exposing her family’s secret, until her aunt reassured her that while running numbers may have been illegal, it was not a source of shame for Fannie — it was how she provided for her family and her neighborhood.
Like I said, I’d never heard of such a thing. But Davis breaks it down, explaining how far back this particular racket goes in certain states. When lottery rules and regulations changed, Fannie changed, too — always adapting and making it work. Davis also addresses the larger picture of her family — her parents came to Detroit from Tennessee as part of “the Great Migration”, several decades during which African Americans relocated from the south to the northeast in search of opportunity. They had no money but felt determined to create a life for themselves. Through hard work and sacrifice, Fannie made it happen, and Davis’s pride in her mother shines through on every page.