1850. In a story told through song and with dreams of freedom tuggin’ at his soul, Bali plans to escape from slavery after learning that his master, Jacob, is going to sell his young daughter, Emala, to help cover the financial losses that he has suffered from their seasonal drought.
During his escape, Bali encounters a house slave, Dembi, who is content with her station in life and has helped raise Emala since Emala's mother was sold to another plantation two states away. Dembi sees the little girl and doesn't believe that her frail young body will be able to survive the journey, nor that the Underground Railroad actually exists.
The Master, Jacob, has amorous feelings for Dembi, but is married and his wife disapproves of their relationship. Jacob hears the commotion outside, and thinks that they are in collusion. He fires his shotgun at the group of slaves! Now, that he suspects her of being connected in their escape plan, Dembi has no choice but to go with them.
The slaves strike out in the dead of night, singing Negro spirituals that they hope will protect them on their perilous journey to freedom and guide them to the Underground Railroad. Will Dembi come to believe in the Underground Railroad, or will she betray the group and return to the comfort of her house? Can Bali protect his daughter and lead them to freedom, or will the master find them and drag them back to a life of servitude?