Once upon a Time...When We Were Colored

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Reviews Counted: 14

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Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

Actor Tim Reid (WKRP in Cincinnati) made his directorial debut with this filmed adaptation of Clifton L. Taulbert's autobiography. Set in an African-American community in the segregated South, Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored follows a young Taulbert through three decades, beginning with his birth in a cotton field in 1946. As he grows up, Taulbert is faced with the harsh realities of being black in the mid-20th century: first from the lessons of his great-grandfather (Al Freeman Jr.), later in his trips to the local segregated library, and finally in 1962, when a 16-year-old Taulbert watches as his community deals with a racist white business owner trying to run a local black ice man out of town. Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored was the recipient of the Audience Choice Award at the 1995 St. Louis International Film Festival.


Paula Kelly
as Ma Pearl
Polly Bergen
as Miss Maybry
Willie Norwood Jr.
as Cliff (age 10)
Damon Hines
as Cliff (age 16)
as Uncle Melvin
Bernie Casey
as Mr. Walter
Isaac Hayes
as Preacher Hurn
Ray J
as Cliff (age 10/11)
Taj Mahal
as Mr. Will
Phill Lewis
as Sammy (age 19)/Narrator
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Critic Reviews for Once upon a Time...When We Were Colored

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (5)

  • Based on Clifton Taulbert's book, this sensitive memory film about the author's coming of age in the segregated South is an emotionally quiet saga, plaved against a tumultuous era in black communal life.

    Jan 10, 2007 | Rating: B

    Emanuel Levy

    Top Critic
  • Though the film exhibits a vaguely nostalgic tone, it's hardly sugar-coated, displaying an increasingly discernible edge to its portrayal of racist realities.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4

    Mike Clark

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • Everything about this film bespeaks wholesomeness, from its gentle life lessons to its calm dignity ... (t)hat said, it is not quite as good as some of the hype would have it.

    Nov 25, 2007 | Rating: 84/100
  • Heart-warming drama in which community becomes a seedbed where young souls are forged.

    Aug 26, 2002 | Full Review…
  • The acting is good all round, but the star of the show has to be Al Freeman Jr. He shows great inner strength, bravery, and intelligence.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

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