Early in 1943, Hirohito, Hitler, and Mussolini are near the apex of their powers. In the same year, Will, a lumberjack and amateur baseball player, and Dena, a beautiful and head-strong co-ed, fall in love.
While a world war rages, their dreams are threatened, first by Dena’s mother’s classism. Dena’s mother declares Will is “not good enough” for her daughter and orders Dena to stop seeing him. Dena vows never to give up her love for Will and won’t have anything to do with the suitor, a young teacher, her mother chooses for her.
Meanwhile, a group of powerful North Carolina businessmen have designs to exploit Will’s extraordinary baseball skills for their financial gain. The carefully laid baseball business scheme fails when the Ku Klux Klan attacks Will’s family. Dena and Will are forced to separate as he flees for his life. As he departs, Dena provides Will with writings of Langston Hughes, whose poems and columns become central to Will’s determination to survive all hardships and reunite with Dena. Will finds refuge in the US Army’s 366th Infantry Regiment and the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division fighting Hitler’s Wehrmacht in Italy.