The Learning Tree

The Learning Tree

The Learning Tree is a 1969 American coming-of-age drama film written, produced, and directed by Gordon Parks. It depicts the life of Newt Winger, a teenager growing up in Cherokee Flats, Kansas, in the 1920s, and chronicles his journey into manhood marked with tragic events. Based on Parks' 1963 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, The Learning Tree was the first film directed by a black filmmaker for a major American film studio, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts.


Newt Winger, Marcus Savage, and several of their friends steal apples from Jake Kiner's orchard, and when Jake confronts the boys, he is beaten and left for dead by Marcus, who is later sent to jail for his actions. While Marcus is in jail, Newt begins to work for Jake to make up for his actions and those of his friends, and also begins a relationship with the new girl in town Arcella Jefferson, but his relationship with her is ultimately destroyed when Chauncey Cavanaugh, a white man and son of the local judge, rapes and impregnates Arcella, who ultimately moves away out of shame. Another scene depicts Newt forced into a brutal boxing match at the County fair.

    More details

    contentLocation Kansas
    director Gordon Parks
    editor George R. Rohrs
    genre drama
    keywords boxing match county fair eat force kill left for dead make up new girl in town
    musicBy Gordon Parks
    producer Gordon Parks
    productionCompany Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
    publisher Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
    recordedAt Fort Scott
    theme black rape