The Learning Tree
Stephanie Cannizzo is an assistant curator at BAMPFA.
Kyle Johnson, Alex Clarke, Estelle Evans,
The first Hollywood studio film directed by an African American, The Learning Tree is Gordon Parks’s semiautobiographical portrait of black youth in Depression-era Kansas. Exploring issues of racial discrimination and masculinity within a potent coming-of-age narrative, Parks looks at rural America during the early twentieth century both nostalgically and critically. In Parks’s words, “Certainly the [film’s] statement is about a black youth living in America, a certain area of America, and how he survives the cruelty of it, and how others didn’t survive.”