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"A negro in need, is a negro indeed"

Valentin Narcisse (played by starring cast member Jeffrey Wright) is a prominent and highly-educated black underworld figure based out of Harlem, New York. He was also a black nationalist orator, active in the Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. He is the main antagonist of Season 4 and a major antagonist in Season 5.

His character was inspired by Casper Holstein. According to the “D.D.” after his name appearing on a brochure for a UNÍA meeting, Narcisse is a doctor of divinity. The same was stated by Jeffrey Wright when speaking of the character: “He is a doctor of divinity, confusion and mayhem.”


Season 4[]

Dr. Valentin Narcisse was born and raised in Trinidad. He entered the United States through the Port of New Orleans in 1898, and he rose to become a leading figure in the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Harlem in New York City. Despite living over two decades in the US, he never applied for US citizenship. Privately, Narcisse is also a highly influential agent in the black entertainment sphere, as well as a major heroin dealer. While Narcisse preaches for the betterment of America's black population through rigorous education and following the tenets of Christianity, he also profits from leasing the services of black entertainers to clubs and music halls across the country, as well as from running heroin dens in New York.

Shortly after entering the US, Narcisse kills a prostitute at a New Orleans brothel. The prostitute's daughter scars Narcisse's chest with a jar of lye, but Narcisse absconds with the girl and names her Daughter Maitland. Daughter is entangled in an abusive relationship with Narcisse. She becomes one of his most valuable talents, and he continually forces her to accept that she is wholly dependent on him for her livelihood.

In 1924, Chalky White began hiring black talents to perform in the Onyx Club in Atlantic City through agent Dickie Pastor, one of Dr. Narcisse's subordinates. When Dunn Purnsley murders Dickie after being caught with Dickie's wife, Alma Pastor, Alma escapes and tells Narcisse of the incident. Narcisse travels to Atlantic City with Alma to seek compensation for the loss of Dickie from Chalky and Nucky Thompson, and threatens to stir up a scandal by having Alma go to the police to accuse Dunn of raping her and killing Dickie. At Nucky's insistence, Chalky reluctantly agrees to give Narcisse a 10% stake in the Onyx Club to hush up the incident, effectively giving Narcisse a foothold in Atlantic City's underworld. To make good on his end of the bargain, Narcisse has Alma killed. Alma's body is found at one of Edward Bader's construction sites, but she is unidentifiable.

Narcisse begins plotting to usurp Chalky White's position in Atlantic City. During a meeting with Arnold Rothstein and Owney Madden in New York to settle a dispute over heroin distribution, Narcisse arranges for the singer Daughter Maitland to be transferred from Madden's Cotton Club to the Onyx Club. When Narcisse introduces Chalky to Daughter, he takes note of Chalky's attraction to the singer, as well as Chalky's ongoing mistreatment of Dunn over the Dickie Pastor incident.

Over the following weeks, Narcisse persuades Dunn to change his allegiance, while Chalky's infatuation with Daughter turns into an affair that distracts him from running his organization. After Chalky raids one of Narcisse's heroin dens and publicly burns the drugs in front of Narcisse, Narcisse has Dunn try to lure Chalky into a trap under the pretext that Dunn wants Chalky to reassert himself and eliminate Narcisse. Chalky realizes Dunn has betrayed him, and the two fight in Daughter's apartment. Just as Dunn is about to strangle Chalky to death, Daughter fatally stabs Dunn in the back. Narcisse realizes that Daughter's loyalty has shifted from him to Chalky since she came to Chalky's aid, and he brutally beats her.

Nucky refuses Chalky's request to go to war against Narcisse. Chalky attempts to kill Narcisse at the Atlantic City UNIA building, but Narcisse evades death, and Chalky is injured and forced into hiding with Daughter. Nucky tries to have Chalky and Daughter smuggled out of town by the Atlantic City police, but learns too late that Narcisse bought out Mayor Bader. Chalky manages to kill the officers before they can kill him or deliver him to Narcisse, and he flees with Daughter to Havre de Grace. Narcisse puts out a bounty on Chalky.

Through Nucky, Chalky arranges for a meeting with Narcisse at the Onyx Club to settle their dispute, intending to have Richard Harrow kill the doctor while they talk. However, Narcisse took Chalky's daughter Maybelle White hostage to coerce Chalky into giving up everything he controlled in Atlantic City. As Harrow prepares to shoot Narcisse from a vantage on the club's upper level, he hesitates and tragically shoots at Narcisse at the same moment Maybelle crosses the bullet's path. Maybelle dies, and Narcisse is splattered with her blood. As the club erupts into chaos, Chalky and the wounded Harrow escape, but Narcisse is arrested by federal authorities.

J. Edgar Hoover visits Narcisse in jail and makes him an offer he cannot refuse. In return for his release, Narcisse agrees to become an FBI informant and monitor Marcus Garvey's activities for Hoover.

Season 5[]

By 1931, Narcisse has reunited with Daughter, who has had a child by Chalky named Althea. Chalky, recently escaped from prison, seeks out Narcisse at his brothel in New York to kill him, but encounters Althea and Daughter. Daughter's singing career has been put on hold by Narcisse, who is preventing anyone from publishing records of her performances, thus keeping her dependent on him. When Narcisse arrives, he presents Chalky with an offer: he will free Daughter to restart her career if Chalky works for him, claiming that he needs help to counter the rising power of Lucky Luciano. Chalky agrees, but as the doctor leaves, his men execute Chalky, an outcome Chalky had anticipated but come to terms with. In their final conversation with each other, Narcisse tells Chalky that he has no choice but to take on faith that Narcisse will keep his promise to help Daughter.

Later, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky decide to form the Commission and put an end to the wasteful violence and rivalries between America's organized crime syndicates. Narcisse, as the leading kingpin of Harlem, is invited to the meeting of the country's most powerful criminals, but refuses to attend. Unknown to him, Luciano called the meeting as an ultimatum: any syndicate leaders who failed to show up and join the Commission were marked for death in order to guarantee the Commission's authority was absolute. Benjamin Siegel carries out Narcisse's assassination, and the doctor is gunned down on the steps of his church.




  • Alma Pastor: Ordered death, killed by his men.
  • Two unnamed men working for Chalky White, shot after trying to murder him.
  • Chalky White: Ordered death, killed by his men.

Memorable Quotes[]

" A thing mixed is a thing weakened-(Jimmy Smith)."

"One looks down in secret and sees many things."

"Only kings understand each other."

"What shall we do, Mr. Thompson, what shall we do?"

"To be what we are, where we are, and dare to stand free, what could be more lonely?"

"Truth is what those in power wish it to be."

"The exile does not choose its babylon"


Season four appearances
"New York Sour" "Resignation" "Acres of Diamonds" "All In"
"Erlkonig" "The North Star" "William Wilson" "The Old Ship of Zion"
"Marriage and Hunting" "White Horse Pike" "Havre De Grace" "Farewell Daddy Blues"
Season five appearances
Golden Days for Boys and Girls The Good Listener What Jesus Said Cuanto
King of Norway Devil You Know Friendless Child Eldorado