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The story opens on a summer day in Annapolis when 39 year-old ISAAC DOUGLAS, a talented African American attorney and young father, is suddenly faced with two life-changing decisions.  To replace his running mate who was mysteriously murdered, The Governor of Maryland asked Isaac to run for Lieutenant Governor. On the same day Isaac received a rambling letter from CAP’N JIM, the scion of the wealthy Chestertown, Maryland WORTHINGTON family.  Cap’n Jim is now serving a 25-year sentence for shooting a black boy who was playing on his dock near the family mansion on the Chester River. Cap’n Jim begs Isaac to help him get out of prison. “You’re a big deal lawyer now, know the Governor, know the ropes.”

For five generations, Isaac’s family has served the wealthy Worthingtons. Most recently, Cap’n Jim’s wife, the kindly MARION WORTHINGTON, funded Isaac’s education. Until recently African-Americans have had little or no power. They have survived rapes, lynchings and constant humiliations of racism. Isaac’s ancestors were bought, sold, and whipped.  His great-grandfather was lynched. Blacks were not allowed to vote or testify against whites, but now Isaac has the promise of new power and a dilemma. Reluctantly, Isaac visits Cap’n Jim in prison. He learns that perhaps Cap’n Jim just fired a warning shot from his veranda. Maybe the boy was pushed off the dock and drowned.

By chance, Isaac meets DILLY PRICE, a rough black mechanic, who reveals he was foreman of the jury and convinced his fellow jurors to convict Cap’n Jim. “About time we turned the tables…our chance to get one a’them. Shocked, Isaac heads for the Chestertown courthouse, where he reads the complete transcript of Cap’n Jim’s trial.

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