The novel takes place in New Rochelle in the 1900's. During this time period a lot of changes were going on. Some of the changes were the women's rights movement, race relations, and family roles. The main thing that caught my attention was the race relations between the whites and blacks. Through the novel they show how violence isn't the way to settle issues like racism. The main character who showed violence trying to gain rights and equality was Coalhouse Walker. .
Coalhouse Walker was a black musician who challenged the racial issues in the society of New Rochelle. He was an important symbol in the book. His character provides insight of race relations during the turn of the century. He represents all African Americans who challenged the expectations many whites have of them. His character was formed with great pride like a typical African American had at that time period. They all wanted respect and equal rights.
One scene shows how blacks were mistreated. Coalhouse was stopped for no reason and was being forced to pay an amount of money to the fire chief, Will Conklin. Coalhouse refused and went to find someone to help him. When he found a police officer to help, all he responded was with: " Those boys don't mean no harm, he finally said. I know them all. Go on back now, They"re probably tired of the sport. Walker may have realized this was probably the maximum support he could expect from a policeman." During that time period of history a black mans plead didn't mean much to a police officer. .
"With eight people dead by Coalhouse's hand, horses destroyed and buildings demolished, with suburban town still reverberating in its terror, his arrogance know no bounds." Through out the novel Coalhouse Walker was looking to be heard by the people. His statements weren't affecting anyone, so he started committing angry actions and resorted to violence to resolve his feelings toward society.