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The Learning Tree (1969)

PG | | Drama | 13 March 1970 (Finland)
The story, set in Kansas during the 1920s, covers less than a year in the life of a black teenager, and documents the veritable deluge of events which force him into sudden manhood. The ... See full summary »


Gordon Parks


Gordon Parks (novel), Genevieve Young (story consultant) | 1 more credit »
2 wins. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson ... Newt
Alex Clarke Alex Clarke ... Marcus
Estelle Evans ... Sarah
Dana Elcar ... Kirky
Mira Waters Mira Waters ... Arcella
Joel Fluellen Joel Fluellen ... Uncle Rob
Malcolm Atterbury ... Silas Newhall
Richard Ward ... Booker Savage
Russell Thorson ... Judge Cavanaugh
Peggy Rea ... Miss McClintock
Carol Lamond Carol Lamond ... Big Mabel
Kevin Hagen ... Doc Tim Cravens
Jimmy Rushing Jimmy Rushing ... Chappie Logan (as James Rushing)
Dub Taylor ... Spikey
Felix Nelson Felix Nelson ... Jack Winger


The story, set in Kansas during the 1920s, covers less than a year in the life of a black teenager, and documents the veritable deluge of events which force him into sudden manhood. The family relationships and enmities, the fears, frustrations and ambitions of the black teenager in small-town America are explored with a strong statement about human values. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


By the time he was 14, the boy had learned what life was all about...Betrayal, Shame, Murder See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

13 March 1970 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

Com o Terror na Alma See more »

Filming Locations:

Fort Scott, Kansas, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Winger See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was selected into the National Film Registry in 1989 (the first year of inductions) for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". See more »


Referenced in Sweet Trash (1970) See more »


My Baby's Gone
Sung by Jimmy Rushing
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User Reviews

tapestry of racism
12 September 2018 | by SnoopyStyleSee all my reviews

Newton Winger is a black teenager in a 1920s mixed rural community of Cherokee Flats, Kansas with underlying racism. He follows his friend Marcus Savage to steal apples from Jake Kiner's orchard. Jake catches Marcus and whips him. Racist Sheriff Kirky shots a negro in the back for dice gambling in the woods and later arrests Marcus for putting Jake into the hospital. Judge Cavanaugh sends him to prison. Newt's respected mother works for the judge and sends him to work for Jake to atone for his transgression. He is dating sweet Arcella Jefferson and she gets raped by the judge's son Chauncey. Marcus is on parole and living with his illiterate father Booker. Growing up without a mother has left him angry. Booker kills Jake while stealing his booze. Newt secretly witnesses the incident and fears an explosion of racial reprisals.

There is so much realism in the race subject matter which has echoes of truth in today's world. It's written and directed by Gordon Parks who is better known for directing the blaxploitation icon Shaft. He uses his childhood in Kansas and the Midwest to breathe sincerity into his characters. The young lead does lack big charisma but he fits the young black man very well. Whether intentional or not, he has the sense of a normal young black man, uncertain and struggling to grow up. He and Marcus serve as two different paths into manhood dictated by their family. They're not shocked by the constant racism and are not cowed by them. The white people in the story comes in all shades. It weaves a complex tale of good and evil. It is adapted from Gordon's novel and could use some trimming. There is a lot going on. The vast tapestry of racism is almost a character in itself. It would serve the story better to expand it into a mini-series. With the ways of present day streaming, I hope somebody finds this material.

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