Hannah Elias was for a period in time regarded as the richest Black woman in America worth $1m. African-Americans couldn’t believe one of their own could possess such amount of cash.
Elias owned four midtown properties, along with a palatial Central Park West mansion. She passed as white and is said to not have allowed Black people in her home, for fear her cover would be blown.
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In 1905, Senator John R. Platt accused the “negro enchantress” of blackmailing him out of $685,385 and sued her for it. The two were in a secret relationship and it is said that Platt had given her large sums of money in the past. Elias was unafraid and hired her own lawyer to beat the case. She took the stand to plead her case before the court and won.