n the American south, light-skinned Afro-American Joe Grant leaves Memphis and moves to a small town after his 18-year-old brother Sonny is brutally lynched for attempting to marry a white woman. Joe's skin is so light that he is able to pass himself off as Caucasian and find work in a local bookstore. To get revenge on white society, Joe seduces a rich young white girl Lizbeth Shannon, and plots her death. Meanwhile, Joe discovers that the bookstore where he works is a front for an extortion ring, and the town's intolerant men make his life miserable. They wish to kill him, out of racism and jealousy, because the women are attracted by Joe's masculine charms. As time goes by, Joe falls in love with Lizbeth. She loves him back until she learns that he is of African descent. Besides, she is engaged to another young man, Elmer. She suggests they run away together to avoid the blackmailers and the marriage. Joe is beaten by the blackmailers, but the pair manages to run away. Elder organizes a posse, claiming that Joe has abducted the girl and plans to rape her. Joe's family history is about to repeat itself. Tragedy ensues just as the fugitive lovers are about to cross the Mason-Dixon Line.

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