Coalhouse Demands Lyrics. From Musical "Ragtime"

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Coalhouse Demands Lyrics


by . From Ragtime.


NEWSBOY #1
Extra! Arsonist destroys Emerald Isle Engine Company!

NEWSBOY #2
Negro gunman shoots three dead!

NEWSBOY #3
Extra! Terror stalks New Rochelle! Murderer's demands revealed!

COALHOUSE
One--that my car be returned to me in its original condition.
Two--that the white excrescence known as Fire Chief Will Conklin,
the one who instigated this crime, be turned over to me for my justice.
Nothing less, nothing more.

ALL
Somewhere in the city
There's a madman waiting
Standing in the shadows
With a gun in his hands
A man of colour
Who is calmly stating:
Coalhouse demands!
Coalhouse demands!


NEW ROCHELLE MEN, WOMEN
He demands!

HARLEM MEN, WOMEN
He demands!
Coalhouse demands!

NEW ROCHELLE MEN
Who is he to demand?

HARLEM MEN, WOMEN
He demands!

NEW ROCHELLE WOMEN, MEN & NEWSBOYS
He demands!

NEWSBOYS (shouting)
Killer Negro demands!

HARLEM MEN, WOMEN
About time a black man demanded!

ALL
He calls Conklin the white excrescence...

THE LITTLE BOY
What's excrescence?

FATHER
Edgar, go to your room!

(MOTHER is greatly agitated. GRANDFATHER and SARAH'S FRIEND are with her. THE LITTLE BOY does not leave.)

MOTHER
Three firemen were killed. One of them was Mrs. Gallagher's nephew.
Six more were badly injured when the boiler exploded.

THE LITTLE BOY
And one of them will be dead by tonight. It was Coalhouse, wasn't it?

FATHER
I said, go to your room.

MOTHER
Edgar.

(MOTHER and THE LITTLE BOY leave together.)

GRANDFATHER
I told you we hadn't heard the last of that Negro.

ALL
Coalhouse demands

HARLEM MEN (COALHOUSES'S MEN), YOUNGER BROTHER
It's an eye for an eye--
Call it justice, friend

HARLEM WOMEN, SARAH'S FRIEND
People's lives for a car ain't justice
An eye for an eye, that ain't!

FIREMEN
He wants Willie Conklin.

CONKLIN
Willie Conklin!
He even misspelled my name.
Wouldn't you know it!
With a "K"!
He can't take a joke, now can he
Sensitive, ain't he?
Does he think only niggers get shit?
We Irish had to get used to it!

FIREMAN
You goddamned, gutless Mick, look what you got us into!

(WILLIE is shocked and confused that people are turning their backs on him and are angry.)

WILLIE
You're gonna protect me, ain't ya?
Hide me, ain't ya?

FIREMAN
Get out of town, Will, before they kill us all!

(COALHOUSE'S MEN surround him. They stand in solidarity.)

COALHOUSE'S MEN
What they did to you,
What they took from you,
We are one with you.
Now the world will know
There are Negroes out there
To make them listen!
We're all Coalhouse!

(They don matching bowler hats and brandish their guns.)


(BOOKER T. WASHINGTON is surrounded by REPORTERS.)

REPORTER #1
Do you have a statement for us, Mr. Washington?

REPORTER #2
What do you think of these Negro renegades, Mr. Washington?

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
For the sum of my life
I have lived in hope
We might all be Christian brothers
I have worked to persuade
Every white-skinned man
That he need not fear our race

I deplore Mr. Walker's actions, and the irreparable harm he has done to my people.
And I wish that I might tell him face to face.


HARLEM WOMEN (Group 1)
Not one of ours Never heard of him We don't want any trouble Not one of ours
HARLEM WOMEN (Group 2)
Not one of ours Never heard of him Don't want any trouble Not one of ours

ALL HARLEM WOMEN
Don't know anything
(to each other) And I wouldn't tell those peckerwoods
Even if I did!

GROUP 1
No one knows what he looks like No one knows where he is No one knows how to Stop him...
GROUP 1
Somewhere in the city There's a madman waiting Standing in the shadows With a gun in his hand
ALL
A man of colour Who is calmly stating Coalhouse demands Somewhere in the city Coalhouse!
CONKLIN, OTHERS
Somewhere in the city Waiting in the dark Stop him!
CONKLIN, GROUP 2
Somewhere in the city Standing in the shadows
COALHOUSE & HIS MEN
We'll play them the music Of something beginning!An era exploding,A century spinning--Listen to that Ragtime!

(THEY fire their guns. People react.

MOTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER are sitting around a table. MOTHER has Sarah's baby with her. FATHER stands with a pistol. THE
LITTLE BOY watches.)

FATHER
We are suffering a tragedy that should not have been ours. What in God's name possessed you? You took that woman in without
sufficient thought. And she brought Coalhouse into our lives. You have victimized us all with your foolish female
sentimentality.

YOUNGER BROTHER
Are you going out to find him and shoot him?

FATHER
I'm protecting my home. If Mr. Walker makes the mistake of coming to my door I will deal with him.

(The baby begins to cry. SARAH'S FRIEND enters.)

YOUNGER BROTHER
Why should he come here? We did not desecrate his car.

FATHER
I went to the police. I told them this murdering madman was a guest in my home. I told them we are keeping his bastard
child. I told them everything I knew. They were very grateful.

YOUNGER BROTHER
Did you tell them he's the Negro maniac whose car they destroyed? The same black man who went to them for justice but whose
every legal complaint the ignored? The same crazed Negro killer who followed the coffin of a woman they murdered? Were they
grateful for the truth?

FATHER
I hope I misunderstand you. Would you defend this savage? Does he have anyone but himself to blame for Sarah's death?
Anything but his damnable nigger pride? Nothing under heaven can excuse the killing of men and the destruction of property in
this manner.

YOUNGER BROTHER
I did not hear such a eulogy at Sarah's funeral. I did not hear you say then that death and destruction of property were
inexcusable.

FATHER
Must I endure this?

YOUNGER BROTHER
You are a complacent man with no thought of history. You have traveled everywhere and learned nothing. I despise you.

(HE exits, slamming the door.)

FATHER
He'll be back.

MOTHER
I don't think so.

THE LITTLE BOY
Why is uncle angry? Why is everyone so angry?

MOTHER
Ask your father.

THE LITTLE BOY
It's because of Coalhouse, isn't it?

[Thanks to Yehuda Alexander for lyrics]




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