Iola Leroy is an interesting didactic story with the elements of irony and severe realities of the time. The events depicted in the novel take place during the period of the American Civil War and afterwards. Iola Leroy is a young woman with blue eyes and white complexion but still she is a mulatto. She works as a nurse in the army and the biggest dream of her life is to live in the country where will be no slave and no master. Her life is not easy, her master is abusive and violent but still she has friends who are glad to help her. One of them is Tom Anderson, who soon dies. Doctor Gresham proposes to Iola but she doesn’t want to marry the white man because it is unacceptable for her. The narrator makes a flashback to the past in order to explain how Iola became the woman she is now.
Here the reader meets Eugene Leroy, Iola’s father, a wealthy slave owner. He fell in love with Iola’s mother Marie, who was his slave, a mulatto woman. They are happy together although the relatives of her father were against this marriage. Three children were born in the marriage – Iola, Henry and Grace, they were one eighth black but still their parents decide to raise them as white children. Children have a good education in northern schools and Iola is even a protector of a slavery in her school, because she doesn’t know her real origin. But then Eugene dies and the marriage is annulled, so children and Marie become slaves.
Their careless life was over. Iola becomes a nurse, Harry is a soldier of the Union army and Grace, their sister, dies because of illness. Both Iola and Henry now consider themselves as colored people and struggle for their rights. They are far away from each other and they don’t know anything about their mother and they don’t know if they will see her again but one day Iola nurses Robert, who appeared to be her uncle, Marie's brother (they had birthmarks) and this family meeting makes Iola happy. Her brother Harry, who was injured in the war awakens and see his mother it his bedside.
The family reunites and moves to Georgia where they meet and affiliate the movement for equal rights for colored and white. There Iola meets doctor Latimer, who gives her support and love – all that she needed. And soon they marry. Henry marries Miss Delany, black educated woman who works as a teacher. The new reunited Leroy family are defenders of civil and women'a rights and anti-slavery movement.