Ragtime the Novel: Understanding Racial Violence in America from a Distance Past

There is a book I read, of a fiction/non-fiction, use real historical figures, story about New York from 1902 – 1912. I bought this book up, because, believe it or not, yesterday, when I saw the news about American police, killing African/Black American in execution style.

I thought about the gun epidemic crisis in America, meaning, nearly everyone & anyone, if want, can buy weapons of war & Trump, is feeding the fertile racism American ground, in hope of raising racism across America, helps him into the White House

Ragtime, is fundamentally, a collection of small stories, based on fiction/non-fiction, historic people & events in early 1900 century New York.

In one story, a group of African/Black, who had made it, meaning, entered the prosperous middle-class 0& one day, the family & friends, got together & drove their car around their New York neighbor, leisurely & for some good time.

They came across a Fire Station & the firemen, for some reason, probably, no appreciate Black/African, making it, attacked the family & friends of that African/Black, while they were in their car, just driving around & trashed the car & hurt some African/Black.

There was an outraged, but eventually the news died down, & suddenly, Fire Station, across New York, were being hit, by “Fire Bombs”.

You know, if u long-term follow of me, u know I comment often, on the gun related violence in America, & so if u long-time followers

u know I have always said, globally, America is only overall super-power left, so lots of friends & enemies, & internally with America, there are lots of social un-rest, linked with various forms of extremism & radicalism, philosophy, like White Supremacist.

In sum, America, externally feeds into internally & by itself, internally feeds into every-town, so America is a highly volatile & risky environment.

& you just imaging, the NRA & Republicans, pouring, massive amount of guns, lots for war situations, onto that volatile & risky environment.

If u need a book to read or movie to watch, I suggest Ragtime as when I read the book way back, helped me, as human, understand America.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Ragtime number 86 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2000.

Ragtime is a novel by E. L. Doctorow: E. L. (1931 – 2015) was an American novelist, editor & professor, known for historical fiction.

Ragtime meaning: Music characterized by a syncopated melodic line and regularly accented accompaniment, evolved by black American musicians in the 1890s and played especially on the piano, that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918

Ragtime is a style of early jazz music written largely for piano in early 20th century, characterized by jaunty rhythms & a whimsical mood.

From the wikipedia: Ragtime plot summary


The novel centers on a wealthy family living in New Rochelle, New York, simply named “Father,” “Mother,” “Mother’s Younger Brother,” “Grandfather,” and “the boy,” Father and Mother’s young son, who perhaps narrates the novel from the perspective of an adult reminiscing about the people and events of his childhood: the narrator is never identified. The family business is the manufacture of flags and fireworks, an easy source of wealth due to the national enthusiasm for patriotic displays. Father joins the first expedition to the North Pole, and his return sees a change in his relationship with his wife, who has experienced a taste of independence in his absence. Younger Brother is a genius at explosives and fireworks, but is an insecure, unhappy character who chases after love and excitement. He becomes obsessed with the notorious socialite Evelyn Nesbit, stalking her through the city and eventually embarking on a brief, unsatisfactory affair with her that leaves him even more isolated.

Into this insecure setup comes first an abandoned black child, then his severely depressed mother, Sarah. Coalhouse Walker, the child’s father, visits regularly to win Sarah’s affections. A professional musician, well dressed and well spoken, he gains the family’s respect and overcomes their prejudice initially by playing ragtime music on their badly tuned piano. Things go well until he is humiliated by a racist fire crew, led by Will Conklin, who vandalize his Model T Ford. He begins a single-minded pursuit of legal action but discovers he cannot hope to win because of the inherent prejudice of the system. Sarah is killed in an attempt to aid him, and Coalhouse uses the money he was saving for their wedding to pay for an extravagant funeral. Having exhausted legal resources, Coalhouse begins killing firemen and bombing firehouses to force the city to meet his demands: that his Model T be restored to its original condition, and Conklin be turned over to him for justice. Mother unofficially adopts Sarah and Coalhouse’s neglected child over Father’s objections, putting strain on their marriage. With a group of angry young men, all of whom come to refer to themselves as ‘Coalhouse Walker’, Coalhouse continues his vigilante campaign, and is eventually joined by Younger Brother, who brings with him his knowledge of explosives. Coalhouse and his gang storm the Morgan Library, taking the priceless collection hostage and wiring the building with dynamite. Father is drawn into the escalating conflict as a mediator, as is Booker T. Washington. Coalhouse eventually agrees to exchange Conklin’s life for safe passage for his men, who leave in his restored Model T. Coalhouse is then shot as he surrenders to the authorities.

Interwoven with this story is a depiction of life in the tenement slums of New York city, focused on Eastern European immigrant Tateh, who struggles to support himself and his daughter, after driving her mother off for accepting money for sex with her employer. The girl’s beauty attracts the attention of Evelyn Nesbit, who provides financial support. When Tateh learns her identity, however, it drives him to take his daughter out of the city. Tateh is a talented artist, and earns a living cutting out novelty paper silhouettes on the street. He tries working in a factory, where he experiences a successful workers’ strike, but becomes disillusioned when he see that it changes little about the workers’ lives, although in the final chapter he still describes himself as a socialist. He starts making and selling moving picture books to a novelty toy company, finally becoming a pioneer of animation in the motion picture industry. Tateh subsequently becomes wealthy and styles himself ‘the Baron’ in order to move more easily through high society. He meets and falls in love with Mother, who eventually marries him after Father is killed in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. They adopt each other’s children, as well as Coalhouse’s son, and move to California.

Mixed into the interwoven stories are subplots following prominent figures of the day, including J.P. Morgan, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud and Emma Goldman.



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