Major Carteret is the white owner of the biggest newspaper in Wellington, a racially segregated city in the post-Civil War South. Carteret, along with other powerful white men in Wellington, are outraged that an editorial published the town's black newspaper has questioned the justification for lynchings. As racial tension mounts, Carteret struggles on the domestic front. His wife and child are unwell and his niece, Clara, is courted by Tom Delamer, a lush aristocrat. Meanwhile, William Miller, a young black doctor, returns to hometown of Wellington to set up a practice. Everything comes to a head, however, when a white woman is murdered.