WGBH Openvault

New Television; Coffee Coloured Children

Part of New Television Workshop.

Coffee Coloured Children is a powerful exploration of the impact of cultural pressure on self-image. Based on the daily experience of mixed-race children, the narrator recalls the pain and confusion of her own childhood spent in an all-white neighborhood with a white mother and an absent black father. The work opens with a video essay showing adults and children of many ethnicities interacting harmoniously to an upbeat and soulful song with a chorus about "coffee-colored people." Through narration by her and her brother and dramatization, Onwurah relays incidents from her own childhood. She recounts the brutal and racist vandalization of her apartment. In reenactments, she is seen making up her face with white makeup and scrubbing her body in the bathtub with chemical abrasives. At the close of the piece, she and her brother stand in front of a fire, burning symbolic mementos of their pain and confusion over their own physical identities. "Melting pot," she asks, "or incinerator?" The work is approximately 16 and one-half minutes long and was broadcast as a segment of episode 604 (1990), and episode 102 (1991), of "New Television." Produced by Ngozi A. Onwurah and Simon Onwurah. Directed by Ngozi A. Onwurah. Approximate date: 1988

License Clip
New Television

Coffee Coloured Children

Series Description

"New Television" began as a local pilot production of WNET (New York) in 1986. In 1987, WGBH signed on as co-producer, and the shows were aired in Boston and New York. In 1988 and 1989, KCET (Los Angeles) and WETA (D.C.) became producers in association. In 1991, PBS picked up "New Television," and it was broadcast nationally. The following year, the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, replaced WNET, WETA, and KCET as co-producer with WGBH. In 1993, WGBH ceased to be a co-producer for the series, and the "home base" moved to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) in Hartford, CT.

"New Television" commissioned, produced, and acquired programming. In its early years, "New Television" broadcast works commissioned by The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund. Increasingly, experimental films as well as video works were broadcast as a part of this series. Many of the later episodes of "New Television" contain works that play with and deconstruct the documentary genre. Series release date: 1986

Asset Type


Media Type


Racially mixed children
Onwurah, Ngozi
Body image
McKay, Haley
McKay, Michael
Onwurah, Simon K.
McKay, Anette
Onwurah, Madge
Film and Television
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “New Television; Coffee Coloured Children,” WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed February 18, 2020, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_117A5A045E7F437BB1BA26E7A53ED894.
MLA: “New Television; Coffee Coloured Children.” WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. February 18, 2020. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_117A5A045E7F437BB1BA26E7A53ED894>.
APA: New Television; Coffee Coloured Children. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_117A5A045E7F437BB1BA26E7A53ED894
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