Two young men, one white, one black, together lead runaway slaves on the dangerous journey from the American South to freedom in Canada in the years preceding the Civil War. John Fairchild, a member of the white plantation class in Virginia, and his best friend Bill Jackson, a slave, travel together up North in 1849. On the way, they take other slaves who are escaping into their care, bringing them safely across the border. The trip has a far reaching effect on their lives, for as word spreads of their daring journey, they are persuaded to bring other slaves to freedom. They travel back to the South, and begin a career of danger that continues for 12 years.