The year is 2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves. The year is 1852: Josephine is a 17-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm - an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell. It is through her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: Art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.
Virginia, 1852: Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004: Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the "perfect plaintiff" to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.