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Claudine (Diahann Carroll) is an impoverished African-American Harlem resident. Unmarried, Claudine supports herself and her six children by working as a maid--albeit secretly, so she can still qualify for welfare. Garbageman James Earl Jones falls in love with Claudine, and after strenuous effort manages to win the affections of her suspicious kids. Just when it seems as though there's a marriage in the offing, Jones runs off. Claudine's kids hunt him down and shame him into returning to their mother.