Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) started life picking cotton on a farm in Macon, Georgia. He witnessed the murder of his father at the hands of plantation owner Thomas Westfall (Alex Pettyfer) following Westfall’s attempt to rape Cecil’s mother, Hattie Pearl (Mariah Carey). Cecil is moved into the house by Westfall’s mother, Annabeth (Vanessa Redgrave), after the murder and taught how to be a house servant. As Cecil neared his 20’s, he left the plantation for fear he too would be murdered. Unable to find work, Cecil is hungry and homeless.