Cornell Stokes was a young man who was abandoned by his parents before being taken by his wealthy Uncle Pete and Mama Mabel. His uncle forced him onto the streets as his cousin Mariah Dillard went to boarding school. He was turned savage after his Mama Mabel forced him to shoot Uncle Pete for making deals with their rivals. Together with the famous gangster known as 'Pop', they became some of the most ruthless criminals to run the streets of Harlem.
Stokes later opened the nightclub Harlem's Paradise, which was however only a front for his illegal criminal activities.