A kaleidoscope of tales from E.L. Doctorow's eponymous novel evokes life in pre-World War I New York City. A white family find a black baby in their yard and takes on the mother as a maid. A black pianist, Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), returns for his woman and child after finding success in a Harlem jazz band. Firefighters, dismayed to see a black man own a Model-T Ford, deface it, and Walker demands retribution. The white family becomes involved in Evelyn Nesbit's trial.