Margaret Walker's novel Jubilee is set in the South before, during, and after the Civil War. Walker's narrative is divided into sections. In the first section, the Ante-bellum years, Vyry's mother, Hetta, a favorite of the master, gives birth to Vyry. Vyry is just a small child when she is taken to the big house on the Dutton plantation to become a servant to what is her half-sister, Lillian. After she grows up, marries, and becomes a mother herself, Vyry learns that she is going to be sold. When she tries to run away, Vyry is beaten severely on her back. These scars will remain with her all her life.
In the section section, the Civil War takes place and its effects are devastating for the Dutton family. First, John Dutton suffers a carriage accident and has gangrene set in and subsequently dies. Then, the son, Johnny is killed at age twenty-two from a bullet to his lungs. The other son, Kevin, is also killed by the bayonet of a Union soldier. These deaths of her sons and husband, along with the effects of the war become to much for Salina Dutton, who suffers a stroke and dies. Vyry continues to care for Lillian, whose mind becomes weaker. And, although she is married to Randall, her husband has been gone for so long that she agrees to marry another man.
The third and final section finds Vyry trying to create a new life for herself with Innis after the war, but misfortune seems to follow them. They find themselves exploited by the owner of the farm that they work, they run into Klu Klux Klansmen in Troy, Alabama, and they are escorted out of town by Black soldiers.
Troubles continue for the Innis and Vyry Brown; finally Randall finds Vyry and he and Innis argue. For the first time, Vyry displays her scarred back to her two husbands, but says evil must be repaid with kindness. They talk through the night, and the next day Randall departs.