Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Brooklyn after the Civil War, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her.
But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother's choices and is hungry for something else - is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark.
When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men.
As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it - for herself and for generations to come.