Nightjohn is a 1996 American television film directed by Charles Burnett. The film is about a young slave girl named Sarny, played by Allison Jones, who lives a hopeless life on a Southern plantation. Her job is to take care of the white family's son as well as spitting tobacco on the roses to keep bugs away. Her life is changed when she is taught how to read by a fellow slave. The slave, John, says that learning to read is freedom because slavery is bounded by laws and deeds which the slaves cannot read. Her excitement towards reading gets her and her fellow slaves in trouble with their master, Mr. Wallace, who prohibits any slave from being able to read. When trouble ensues, Sarny uses her ability to read against Mr. Wallace and saves the lives of the rest of the slaves. She ends up being sold, but not before she shows her fellow slaves the letter ‘A’.


Sarny, a girl, is born in a slave cabin. Her master Clel Waller is angry, saying that a boy would've been worth more. However, he doesn't sell her, as a promise has been made, so her mother is sold after a few years instead. Sarny is taken care by Delie, another slave.