Once Upon a Time... When We Were Colored (1995)

PG  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  26 January 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 427 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 9 critic

A narrator tells the story of his childhood years in a tightly knit Afro-American community in the deep south under racial segregation.



(book), (screenplay)
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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ma Ponk
Uncle Melvin
Ma Pearl
Miss Alice (as Salli Richardson)
Miss Annie
Mr. Walter
Preacher Hurn
Cliff (12 Yrs.) (as Willis Norwood Jr.)
Cliff at 16
Iona Morris ...
Nila Fontaine
Sammy (19 Yrs.) / Narrator
Taj Mahal ...
Mr. Will
Miss Maybry


This film relates the story of a tightly connected Afro-American community informally called Colored Town where the inhabitants live and depend on each other in a world where racist oppression is everywhere, as told by a boy called Cliff who spent his childhood there. Despite this, we see the life of the community in all its joys and sorrows, of those that live there while others decide to leave for a better life north. For those remaining, things come to a serious situation when one prominent businessman is being muscled out by a white competitor using racist intimidation. In response, the community must make the decision of whether to submit meekly like they always have, or finally fight for their rights. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements including mild violence, language, and sensuality | See all certifications »




Release Date:

26 January 1996 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$3,375,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


7 years prior to this film, Bernie Casey (Mr. Walter) And Isaac Hayes (Preacher Hurn) acted together in the Keenen Ivory Wayans comedy, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka." See more »


Miss Maybry: Books are like eggs. You got to crack 'em open to get anything out of them.
See more »


Maybe Tomorrow
Written and Performed by Lionel Cole
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User Reviews

Upon a time
29 March 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I kept waiting for the bad moments to happen, as so often they do in these reminiscent movies of growing up in the south, yet no real drama occurred. These were moments pieced together, and if that was the intent--it worked. True, a child's reflection of childhood would be pieces of memory chained loosely together, impressions of events, people, and times. However, when the movie ended I thought, "That's it?" There were fine performances; however, the plot seemed to soft-step around the real issues, such as the Jim Crow laws, segregated schooling, subservient wages, and escaping to the north to avoid the subjugation. We got breadth, when depth might have made a much more interesting plot line.

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