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Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with A Picture of Freedom (book).

"F-R-E-E-D-O-M. I finally understand. Freedom is about being able to make choices, and I've made the choice to stay here no matter what. I finally see my picture of freedom. It's me."
Clotee decides to stay in order to help others

"A Picture of Freedom" is the first film in the Dear America film series. It was based on A Picture of Freedom by Patricia C. McKissack. The movie aired on March 17, 1999 on HBO. Shadia Simmons and Alison Sealy-Smith starred in the film. It was followed by "Dreams in the Golden Country".

Clotee is a young slave girl living on a plantation in Virginia. She secretly learns how to read and write.


A slave, named Clotee (Shadia Simmons) learns how to read and write, before the Civil War. Clotee has to keep it a secret, even from her friends since slaves are not supposed to learn these things. Her friends, Aunt Tee (Alison Sealy-Smith) and Spicy (Erica Luttrell) work in kitchens, where they are ordered around by Mrs. Lilly (Catherine Fitch) who knows little about cooking. Clotee has another friend, Hince (Jason Burke), a jockey in love with Spicy.

One day, Master Henley (Richard Sali) shows a wanted poster of an abolitionist to his slaves. He promises to set anyone free who has information on the man. That night, Clotee asks Aunt Tee and Spicy about abolitionists. They explain that they are people who help free slaves on the Underground Railroad. Later, Aunt Tee catches Clotee writing and slaps her out of fear for her life. After William's (Andrew Dinner) school lessons, his tutor Mr. Harms (Mark Ellis) reveals to Clotee that he knows her secret.

Clotee runs to the river, intending to destroy her diary. William approaches at that moment riding his horse, Dancer. He falls off and hurts his head. In retaliation, Master Henley attempts to shoot Hince, who manages to talk him out of it. Deciding not to kill him, he lashes Hince and promises to sell him soon. The other slaves watch in horror, before Master Henley orders them to leave. Later that night, Clotee begins ripping her diary. She then sees Mr. Harms speaking to the abolitionist from the poster. Mr. Harms reveals that he is also an abolitionist and promises to help Hince escape.

Later, Hince tells Master Henley about Mr. Harms, hoping to be set free. Clotee and Aunt Tee are angry at Hince for telling on Mr. Harms, whose life is now hanging by a thread. They come up with a plan to save him. Spicy tells Master Henley that Hince was lying since he was jealous of her and Mr. Harms being together. William corroborates Spicy's story. Master Henley lets Mr. Harms, but not before burning his books. Sometime later, Mr. Harms returns to help Clotee and her friends escape. Clotee decides to stay to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad and to teach the other slaves how read and write.

Cast and characters[]

Crew and credits[]

  • Directed by: Helaine Head
  • Teleplay by: Ron Stacker Thompson and Ashley Tyler
  • Adapted from the book: "A Picture of Freedom" written by Patricia C. McKissack
  • Based on: the Scholastic book series "Dear America" created by Jean Feiwel
  • Executive producer: Deborah Forte
  • Co-executive producers: Bill Siegler, Martha Atwater
  • Editor: Richard Wells
  • Production designer: Ian Brock
  • Director of photography: Barry Bergthorson
  • Line producer: Lena Cordina
  • Music by: Jack Lenz and Douglas John Cameron
  • Story editor: Rhonda Jayne Olson
  • Production manager: Lena Cordina
  • 1st assistant director: Mark Tataryn
  • Location manager: Karen Perez
  • Art director: Roderik Mayne
  • 1st assistant art director: Theresa Tindall
  • 2nd assistant director: Eric Banz
  • Production coordinator: David Hardy
  • Script supervisor: Carol Pears
  • Set decorator: Elizabeth Calderhead
  • Costume designer: Joyce Schure
  • Property master: Alan Doucette
  • Make-up: Leslie Dumbleton
  • Hairstylist: Etheline Joseph
  • Camera operator: Doug Lawrence
  • Sound recordist: Bryan Day
  • Re-recording engineer: Steve Foster
  • Gaffer: Michael Forrester
  • Key grip: Darren Boyce
  • 1st assistant camera: Lori Longstaff
  • Post production supervisor: Lynda McKenzie
  • Assistant editor: Douglas Crawford
  • Construction coordinator: Bill White
  • Transport coordinator: J. Skavinsky
  • Stunt coordinator: Anton Tyukodi
  • Special effects by: Brock Jolliffe
  • Casting: Susan Forrest and Sharon Forrest
  • Production accountant: Kelly Decooman
  • Scholastic financial executive: Diane Vilagi
  • Production associate: Tessa Abdull
  • Production services provided by: Protocol Entertainment Inc.
  • Special thanks to: Dome Audio Video & Effects, The Lab

Home media[]


The film on VHS

"A Picture of Freedom" was released on video tape in 2000.[4] It was also released in a three pack with "Dream in the Golden Country" and "A Journey to the New World".[5]

Back of tape description:
"F-R-E-E-D-O-M. Clotee, a twelve-year-old slave, is teaching herself to spell a word she's never been able to understand. But no one can find out she can read and write–she could be beaten, sold, or worse. Her friends, Spicey and Hince are in love, and when the master decides to tear them apart, Clotee knows she must come up with a plan. She risks everything to help her friends and family, and learns that freedom is more than just a word–it's an entire world."

Differences from the book[]

  • Several major and minor characters are missing from the film, including Uncle Heb, Missy, Wook, Eva Mae, Aggie, and Briley Waith.
  • Hince and Aunt Tee call Clotee "Lil Bit", which is the name of her doll in the book.
  • Both Mr. Harms and Spicy are already there at the beginning, instead of arriving later on like in the book.
  • In the book, Hince is described as being able to "pass for anybody's ordinary white boy" with gray eyes and sandy hair. His appearance in the film is the opposite of this description.
  • Master Henley appears to have several more slaves than he does in the book.
  • Unlike in the book, Mrs. Lilly is given little character description or development.
  • Hince is blamed for William's injury when he rides Dancer, instead of Uncle Heb in the book. Also, Master Henley does not lose Hince in a bet, but decides to sell him because of the aforementioned incident.
  • Mr. Harms helps Hince, Spicy, and Aunt Tee to freedom in the film, whereas Aunt Tee originally stays behind at the plantation.

Behind the scenes[]



From the Dear America website (August 2000)



See also[]

External links[]