Kristy McKay, a young woman from Mississippi living in New York in the early 1960s, is trying to expiate the original sin of slavery on which her family fortune was built. She is active in the civil rights movement in direct conflict with her father, a retired admiral who was a hero in World War II and is now a proponent of white supremacy. Kristy’s relationship with her father is observed by Nathan Waterman, a writer for a national news magazine who falls in love with her. When Nathan is asked by the admiral to write his story, he agrees hoping it will help Kristy deal with her father. As she reads his story she understands how her father became such an extremist, but meanwhile the violence by opponents of racial integration in Mississippi is escalating. Kristy suspects that her father is behind the violence, but when she accuses him of killing a young black man he denies it, making her feel like a bad daughter. Unable to live with the possibility that her father may be killing people, she needs to learn the truth so that she can finally free herself from a legacy of guilt and hatred.