World War I is raging in Europe. Charlie Newell, a religious Southern negro tenant farmer who believes war is wrong and holds Saturday sacred as a day for prayer and no work, seeks conscientious objector status from the draft. His request is denied and he is forced into the racially prejudiced U.S. Army of that time.
Assigned to work in the stables, he refuses an officer's direct order to work Saturday, is court-martialed, and is sentenced to 10 years at hard labor.
Thus begins Charlie's travails in a hostile world where his beliefs are tested, his manhood challenged, and his humanity stretched to the limit.