Writer Recalls Her Mother's Secret Gambling Enterprise Before states ran legal lotteries there was the underground street version — the numbers. When writer Bridgett M. Davis was growing up in Detroit in the '60s, her mother was a successful bookie in the African American community. She says the numbers helped fund both an underground economy and legitimate businesses at a time when opportunities for African-Americans were limited. "Numbers men were also race men, and they believed in taking their largesse and reinvesting it in the community, starting all kinds of businesses — everything from, say, a bowling alley to an insurance company to a newspaper." Davis' memoir is 'The World According to Fannie Davis.'