One of the premises of the novel is that during the 1863 draft riots in New York City, all of the Blacks in “the city” (Manhattan) were driven out of the city to an island off the coast of Manhattan, an island called Edgemere. So when the book opens, it is 1866, and Blind Tom is the only black person, as far as we know, who still remains in the city. A clandestine, he is under the care of Eliza Bethune, his former manager’s wife. (The manager was killed during the riots.) So that’s the premise.