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Nightjohn (1996)

TV Movie  |  PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  1 June 1996 (USA)
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Sarny, a 12-year-old slave girl in the ante-bellum South, faces a relatively hopeless life. Her chief duties at the plantation of Clel Waller are serving at table, spitting tobacco juice on... See full summary »



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Title: Nightjohn (TV Movie 1996)

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2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Clel Waller
Old Man
Callie Waller
Dr. Chamberlain
Joel Traywick ...
Jeff Waller (as Joel Thomas Traywick)
Allison Jones ...
Patty Mack ...
Deborah Duke ...
Danny Nelson ...
Reverend Osee Rush
Monica Ford ...
Gerald Brown ...
Robin Michelle McClamb ...
Sarnys Mother (as Robin McLamb-Vaughn)
Steven Sutherland ...
Alan Bowen


Sarny, a 12-year-old slave girl in the ante-bellum South, faces a relatively hopeless life. Her chief duties at the plantation of Clel Waller are serving at table, spitting tobacco juice on roses to prevent bugs, and secretly conveying intimate messages between Waller's wife, Callie, and Dr. Chamberlaine. Then Nightjohn arrives. A former runaway slave who bears telltale scars on his back, he takes Sarny under his wing and, in exchange for a pinch of tobacco, secretly begins to teach her to read and write, a crime punishable by death. "Words," he says, "are freedom. Slavery is made of words: laws, deeds and passes." He starts by drawing letters in the dirt and cautions her that no one must know. At her baptism, Sarny steals a Bible that belongs to Waller's son, Jeffrey, and practices reading by lantern-light in the slave quarters. The same Bible serves another purpose when, on a blank page taken from it, Nightjohn forges a pass for Outlaw, a young slave, to use in escaping to freedom ... Written by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Words Are Freedom



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some scenes of racial oppression and abuse

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 June 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Ende der Nacht  »

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Did You Know?


All the women's dresses have zippers in the back of them. The zipper wasn't invented until 1917. See more »

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User Reviews

If you have any affection for the printed word, this is a movie to cherish.
8 May 2000 | by (Colorado) – See all my reviews

A hymn to learning and determination, "Nightjohn" is also a thoughtful and moving film about slavery, perhaps the best I've seen. All the actors are superb, the script is winning, the insight into human relations cuts deep. Charles Burnett is one of our best unknown directors, and the fact that he can turn out a film like "Nightjohn" for Hallmark/Disney should indicate to those in power in Hollywood that more of his work should end up on the big screen. Great stuff!

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