After Southern tenant farmer Tom Blake dies, Lane Norwood, the owner of the cotton plantation, puts Tom's son Marvin through school, later hiring him to work in his store. The other sharecroppers suspect that Marvin is now on the side of the owners, but Marvin is torn between his loyalty to his family and his gratitude to Norwood. He is also attracted to both Betty Wright, the daughter of a sharecropper, and Madge, Norwood's daughter. Marvin learns that the farmers are stealing cotton from Norwood, but as he understands how hard their life is, he says nothing to his boss, who has taken Marvin into his own house to live. When a tenant shoots a planter, Marvin and Norwood join the hunt for the killer. Marvin is sickened by the lynching that follows. Burdened by their debts, the tenants burn down Norwood's store. Marvin reveals that he has kept a duplicate set of books which will prevent Norwood from being ruined, but the tenants beg Marvin to destroy them so they can start again without debts. Marvin refuses to give the books to the sharecroppers until one of them explains that Norwood's high interest rates were responsible for the overwork that killed Marvin's father. Caught in the middle, Marvin calls a meeting between the planters and the farmers and proposes a cooperative scheme for farming that will be fairer to the tenants without asking the planters to assume all the financial risk. When some of the planters refuse, Marvin threatens to expose the truth about the lynching. Finally everyone signs the trial contract, and Marvin looks forward to better times. (Verleiher-Text)