Ragtime Book Report Script

Jess Brock

American History

Script Ragtime Tape Recorded Book Report

March 20, 1999

Jess Brock This is Jess Brock, with Real News. I am in front of the Pierpont Morgan property in Manhattan where Coalhouse Walker and a troupe if young Negroes have moved into the Morgan Library after escalating events in the past few weeks. I'm going to tell you the scene here. There is an enormous crater in front of the library stairs, caused by a blast during Mr. Walker's break in. It is oddly quiet here. Most of the residents have left the area. I am here with District Attorney Whitman, in Manhattan, where Coalhouse Walker has appropriated Mr. J. P. Morgan's Library. Mr. Whitman, why has Mr. Walker moved into the Morgan Library?

D. A. Whitman Walker was done some disservice by Fire Chief Willie Conklin, and he is here to obtain revenge.

Jess Can you give us some insight on that disservice?

Whit. No, I cannot. I'd prefer not to discuss that right now.

Jess Have you talked to Mr. Walker?

Whit. Yes, I have spoken with him on the telephone, and it looks like we can work things out.

Jess What are Mr. Walker's demands?

Whit. I cannot reveal that information to you.

Jess I understand you have had Emma Goldman arrested. Is that related to the Mr. Walker's stakeout here?

Whit. Yes. We believe that Goldman has incited Walker to commit the heinous acts he has committed of late.

Jess There you have it, from District Attorney Whitman. I will now turn you over to Ben Allen, who is with Emma Goldman.

Ben Allen Yes, I am here with anarchist Emma Goldman, who has just been arrested. We are in the sergeant's office. Emma, what can you tell us about Coalhouse Walker? Did you set him up?

Emma Goldman I don't know Coalhouse Walker, but I do know of his story. I have been following it in the news. I am sorry for the firemen in Westchester. I wish they had not been killed. But the Negro was tormented into action, so I understand, by the cruel death of his fiancee, an innocent young woman. As an anarchist, I applaud his appropriation of the Morgan property. Mr. Morgan has done some appropriating of his own.

Ben Is he a follower of yours?

Emma No.

Ben Do you know him?

Emma No.

Ben Did you have anything to do with this?

Emma No. The oppressor is wealth, my friends. Wealth is the oppressor. Coalhouse Walker did not need Red Emma to learn that. He needed only to suffer.

Ben I'm giving you back to Jess Brock, who is with Booker T. Washington in front of the Morgan property, where Coalhouse Walker has continued his stakeout.

Jess Thank you, Ben. I'm here with Booker T. Washington, who has just spoken with Coalhouse Walker. Mr. Washington, why did you come here to speak to Mr. Walker?

Booker T. Washington I came to tell Coalhouse that he was setting back our race with these shenanigans. He is disgracing every Negro by taking these uncalled for actions.

Jess I understand, though, that Mr. Walker has endured some torment that put him in this place.

Wash. He has not endured anything. To endure means to accept, and go on. Coalhouse is not enduring. I endure; and I have brothers here, they endure.

Jess You have a vigil going on here. Can you tell me why these people have come out?

Wash. We are demonstrating the opposition of responsible Negroes to the cause of Coalhouse Walker. We do not support him one inch. He is a desperately brainsick man.

Jess How many Negroes are in the library with Mr. Walker?

Wash. Four or five, as well as one white in blackface.

Jess Blackface, Mr. Washington?

Wash. Yes, a white man has accompanied Coalhouse on this expedition, and he has covered his face with charcoal. It looks like a minstrel show in there.

Jess Does Mr. Walker have the capability to blow up the Morgan Library?

Wash. Absolutely. They are all ready to blow the building sky high, and if someone doesn't talk to this lunatic, my cause will be set back dramatically. I think that Negroes and whites should be able to work side by side in democratic America.

Jess Do you think that Mr. Walker's actions here today will cause historical impact?

Wash. I hope that history will forget Coalhouse and instead remember all of the Negroes who have worked for a living and tried to succeed along side their white neighbors under God. I hope history will forget Coalhouse Walker.

Jess Thank you, Mr. Washington. I have here a man, Father, who has asked that his name not be disclosed. He is mediating between Mr. Walker and D. A. Whitman. Father, what are Mr. Walker's demands?

Father Coalhouse has asked that Fire Chief Conklin be turned over to his justice, and that his Model T Ford be returned in it's original condition.

Jess Will these demands be satisfied?

Father No, we are negotiating right now. Mr. Morgan has agreed to pay for the expense of repairing the Ford, but we cannot give Willy Conklin over to Coalhouse. Also, Coalhouse must pay for what he has done up until now.

Jess What did Mr. Conklin do to push Mr. Walker to this extreme?

Father He and his firemen destroyed Coalhouse's Ford. They excreted in his back seat, and scraped it up some, and the police told Coalhouse just to forget about it and clean it up. Coalhouse, though, is very stubborn. He left the car there, and demanded that they repair it. The car was further vandalized and was dumped in the pond. It has been excavated, though.

Jess What has Mr. Walker done before staking out Mr. Morgan's Library, to obtain justice?

Father Well, I believe he may have filed some reports with the police. He wrote several letters to various newspapers, and then he took to bombing firehouses. First he got Willy Conklin's station. Then he got one in Westchester. He has killed a total of eight people, all over a car.

Jess How long have you known Mr. Walker?

Father I have known him for a year or so.

Jess How did you first meet him?

Father His girlfriend was a servant of ours.

Jess A servant? I had thought that she was a houseguest.

Father Well, yes.

Jess Go on.

Father Well, she was living in our house, and he came to speak to her. She wouldn't receive him, so he kept coming back every Sunday. I tried to put an end to the visits, but he showed up anyway. Eventually, she received him, and they were to be wed when she was killed.

Jess How was she killed?

Father She went to talk to some politicians, and the security thought she was an assassin, so they shot at her. She died a few days after.

Jess Do you think that perhaps her death led Mr. Walker to this extreme?

Father Like I said, Coalhouse is very stubborn. I need to be going now. I must get back to Mr. Whitman.

Jess Thank you for your time, Father. Now, I'm going to report on other news with Harry Houdini. Are you there Mr. Houdini?

Houd. Yes, I am.

Jess Mr. Houdini, you have been much discussed in the news lately. Are you still struggling with the death of your mother?

Harry Houdini Yes, Jess, I am.

Jess Well, I think I speak for the whole world when I offer you my most sincere condolences. Is working keeping your mind away from your grief?

Houd. Yes, but only momentarily. When I wake up, it is all there again.

Jess Well, again, let me offer my sympathy. I'd like to hear about next week's activity.

Houd. Yes, Jess. It is my intention to be placed in a straight jacket in Times Square and be lifted halfway up the Times Tower. I will escape from there.

Jess Sounds like a great show, Mr. Houdini. One last question, Mr. Houdini. When Harry K. Thaw, the infamous murderer, escaped from prison, he said, "Call me Houdini," upon being questioned about how he did it. Do you have any comment?

Houd. No, Jess, I don't. Harry K. Thaw was a sick puppy, and I'm glad I was never associated with him.

Jess Well, thank you Mr. Houdini. Now I'm going, also via telephone to the Baron Ashkenazy of the Buffalo Nickel Photoplay. Baron, of late, you've had much success in the film industry, is that so?

Baron Yes. I've been very fortunate.

Jess You were not always so fortunate, though, were you?

Bar. No.

Jess Would you like to tell us about your misfortunes prior to beginning the Buffalo Nickel Photoplay?

Bar. No.

Jess I understand that you lost your wife some time ago.

Bar. Yes, that is so.

Jess That must have been hard on your daughter.

Bar. Yes, it was.

Jess She was your inspiration to start the Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, correct?

Bar. Yes, that is so.

Jess Do you have any plans to put out future films?

Bar. Yes.

Jess Can you tell us about them?

Bar. I'd prefer not to; I'd like to keep it a surprise.

Jess I see. Thank you Baron. Good luck with your films. I'm going to hand you over to Ben Allen who has the latest news from the baseball fields.

Ben Thank you, Jess. I'm here where the New York Giants are playing the Boston Braves. Things look good for Giants pitcher Rube Marquard, who has won his last three chances. We're running a close game here, after a fight on the field. We'll have the results for you when the game is through. For now, I'll hand you back to Jess Brock, in Manhattan, where Coalhouse Walker has the city in turmoil.

Jess Thank you. Let me just tell you, it is pure insanity here. Father, who I spoke to earlier, came out with an agreement between D. A. Whitman and Mr. Walker. Mr. Conklin was brought out and he repaired Mr. Walker's Model T Ford to its original state. Then, Mr. Walker's troupe left, and Mr. Walker himself left after two hours delay. Upon his exit, police who were watching the scene promptly shot him to death. I'm here with one of those very police officers now. Why did you shoot Mr. Walker? He had agreed to face justice, is that not so?

Police Officer Yes that is so. We were lined up on either side of the path out of the library, and Walker tried to make a break for freedom. We were all lined up, and he tried to dart out between us, so we all just started shooting.

Jess Do you know why Mr. Walker was in the Morgan Library?

Pol. No. I think Walker was pretty insane, though. I know Conklin was nasty to him, but that doesn't seem to have much to do with Morgan's library. I don't know.

Jess Did you hit Mr. Walker?

Pol. Listen, I don't know. He tried to run, and we all shot. I don't know who hit Walker.

Jess Well, thank you for your insight. Now, we have tracked down the white man in blackface whom Mr. Washington professes to have seen. He has asked that we preserve his anonymity by referring to him as Mother's Younger Brother. Mother's Younger Brother, can you give us some insight into the troupe of men who followed Mr. Walker?

Mother's Younger Brother Well, we were all friends, on amicable terms. We wanted justice not just for Coalhouse, but for all Negroes.

Jess If you were seeking justice for Negroes, how did you end up in the mix?

MYB I wanted justice for Coalhouse too. I know what happened to him, and I agree with his principles.

Jess I have heard that you, in fact, are the brother-in-law of the man, Father, who we spoke to earlier.

MYB Yes. That is true.

Jess Are you on terse terms?

MYB Yes, very terse. Father does not understand the principle behind this. Coalhouse lost everything. His love, his car, his son. And through the law, he could receive no justice. I hope that all Negroes understand Coalhouse's stance here.

Jess I'm sure some of the members of the Negro community support Mr. Walker, but we earlier spoke to Mr. Washington, who was very frustrated by Mr. Walker's actions. What can you tell us about this?

MYB Booker T. Washington is a well respected member of the black community, and he has worked very hard to be so. I'd rather not say anymore that this.

Jess Well, thank you. In earlier news stories, people expressed the opinion that the bombs used could have only been built by a skilled technician. Who was the bomb designer?

MYB I was.

Jess Where did you learn to make bombs?

MYB I used to design fireworks, and the principles are the same. There isn't much difference.

Jess Where did you obtain the materials to construct these bombs?

MYB Most of it was stolen.

Jess From where?

MYB I'd rather not say.

Jess I understand you were once involved with Evelyn Nesbit, the infamous whore, and former lover of Harry K. Thaw. What can you tell us about her?

MYB The press has given Evelyn a bad rap. She is no whore, and she deserves none of the poorly researched trivia that has been published about her. I was her only lover excepting for Harry Thaw, and Stanley White, who Harry killed.

Jess One last question. What do you plan to do now that this is all over?

MYB I'm not sure. I'm kicking around the notion of heading for California, maybe Mexico. I want to leave New York.

Jess Well, thank you. Ben, I certainly think this is a night history will remember, even if Mr. Washing ton would prefer it not to be so.

Ben Yes, tonight's chaotic events have finally ended with a heart-wrenching twist of fate.

Jess That is so true, Ben. This is Jess Brock…

Ben …and Ben Allen. Tune in tomorrow for more Real News, same time, same channel.

Jess Good night!

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