HOLDER, GEOFFREY, 1930-2014.
Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, circa 1900-2018

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/s9423

Collection Stored Off-Site

All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of up to two business days for retrieval.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Holder, Geoffrey, 1930-2014.
Title: Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, circa 1900-2018
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 1432
Extent: 225.25 linear feet (214 boxes) and 4 oversized papers folder (OP)
Abstract:Papers of Trinidadian-American artist and author Geoffrey Holder and American artist and educator Carmen de Lavallade from 1900 to 2018, including correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, printed material and memorabilia, scripts, writings, drawings, art references and audiovisual materials.
Language:Materials primarily in English with some material in French

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

In-process collection. As of January 2023, audiovisual materials in this collection are closed for processing.

Special restrictions apply: Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.


Gift and purchase from Carmen de Lavallade, March 2018.

Custodial History

The Rose Library purchased a portion of the material and was gifted a portion of the material from Carmen de Lavallade. Rose Library staff members Carrie Hintz, Meaghan O’Riordan, Sarah Quigley, and Pellom McDaniels, III, organized and rehoused materials into archival boxes onsite in New York City, New York, at the loft where the materials were being stored. Clancy-Cullen Moving & Storage moved the boxes from the loft to their warehouse for preparation for shipment to Emory University. O’Riordan rehoused some of the larger boxes packed onsite upon delivery to the Rose Library, April 2018.


[after identification of item(s)], Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Appraisal Note

Acquired by Curator of African American collections, Pellom McDaniels, III, as part of the Rose Library’s holdings in African American literature and the arts.


Arranged and described at the collection level by Carrie Hintz, Meaghan O’Riordan, and Sarah Quigley, March 2018. Arranged and described at the file level by Anicka Austin and Abbey Hafer, 2020-2022.

This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact us at rose.library@emory.edu.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Geoffrey Holder (1930-2014) was a Trinidadian-American director, actor, author, choreographer, painter, musician, photographer and dancer. He was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on August 1, 1930, to Arthur and Louise Holder, who had emigrated to Trinidad from Barbados. He had three siblings, older brother Boscoe Holder and sisters Jean and Marjorie. Holder made his debut as a dancer at the age of seven in Boscoe's dance company. After Boscoe moved to Europe, Holder took over the company and garnered support from patrons such as Catherine Randolph, a relationship that would last over 30 years. He moved to New York, New York in 1952 after receiving encouragement from choreographer Agnes de Mille. He made his Broadway (New York, New York) debut as Baron Samedi in Harold Arlen and Truman Capote's 1954 musical House of Flowers, where he and Carmen de Lavallade met during production.

Holder was principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera (New York, New York) from 1955-1956 and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts in 1956 for his work as a painter. In 1957, he made his film debut as dancer in Carib Gold alongside Ethel Waters and Cicely Tyson. After performing on Broadway and in cities across the United States with Josephine Baker (circa 1963), Holder and de Lavallade were invited by Baker to perform with her at the Theatre de l'Olympia in 1964. From 1969-1972, Holder hosted "Geoffrey Holder's Music," a show on New York’s WOR Radio. A year later, he played the role of Baron Samedi in the James Bond film Live and Let Die (1973). Other acting credits in the 1970s and 1980s include Punjab in Annie (1982) and several Clio award-winning commercials for 7-up.

In 1975, Holder directed The Wiz on Broadway, which won seven Tony Awards, including Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design for Holder. In 1978, he directed, choreographed, and designed costumes for the musical Timbuktu! starring Eartha Kitt, which was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Costume Design.

Holder's seminal choreographic works Dougla (1974) and Prodigal Prince (1967) are in the repertoires of dance companies Dance Theater of Harlem (New York) and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (New York, New York), respectively.

Carmen de Lavallade is an American actress, educator, choreographer, and dancer. She was born on March 6, 1931, in Los Angeles, California, to Creole parents from New Orleans, Louisiana, Leo de Lavallade and Grace Grenot de Lavallade. She has two siblings, sisters Yvonne and Elaine de Lavallade. She was raised by her aunt, Adele de Lavallade Young, who owned one of the first African American bookshops on Central Avenue in Los Angeles (California). Her cousin, Janet Collins, was a sought-after ballet dancer who is now considered a pioneer of Black dance.

After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School (Los Angeles, California), de Lavallade was awarded a scholarship to study dance with Lester Horton, becoming lead dancer of Lester Horton Dance Theater (Los Angeles, California) during her tenure. She left for New York (New York) in 1954 with Alvin Ailey, whom she had met and encouraged to begin dancing in high school. That same year, she made her Broadway debut partnered with Ailey in Truman Capote’s musical, House of Flowers. In 1955, de Lavallade danced as prima ballerina in Samson and Delilah and Aida at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet (New York, New York). An introduction to 20th Century Fox executives by Lena Horne led to film acting roles in films such as Carmen Jones (1954) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

In 1962, de Lavallade and Ailey embarked on a tour of Southeast Asia as the de Lavallade-Ailey dance company. In 1970, at the insistence of John Butler, she began teaching at the Yale School of Drama (New Haven, Connecticut) as a choreographer and performer-in-residence. She staged musicals, plays, and operas and eventually became a professor and member of the Yale Repertory Theater.

De Lavallade co-founded the performance group Paradigm in 1996 with Gus Solomon, Jr. and Dudley Williams. She has received honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the State University of New York at Purchase and Julliard (New York, New York). In 2014, she performed a biographical solo As I remember it at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (Becket, Massachusetts), marking an over 60-year relationship with the prestigious festival.

Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade married in Westport, Connecticut, on June 26, 1955. They had one son, Léo Anthony Holder. Geoffrey Holder died in New York, New York, on October 5, 2014.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade. Materials include art portfolios, awards and honors, books and periodicals, correspondence, ephemera, family papers, memorabilia, photographs, printed material, and scripts from circa 1900-2018. Much of the material in the collection relates to the creation or realization of performances, productions and other artworks. Correspondence includes letters and notes between de Lavallade and Holder from 1958; letters from Janet Collins to Adina Williamson (a de Lavallade relative) from 1947-1953; and letters to Geoffrey Holder from Catherine Randolph, his first United States patron, circa 1952-1992. There are several listener letters and requests from Holder’s “Geoffrey Holder’s Music” radio show on WOR New York from 1968-1972. Other significant correspondents include William Dufty and Butterfly McQueen, and there are individual letters from a number of noteworthy figures. Sketchbooks include illustrations related to specific projects, including set and costume designs. Scripts include a number of heavily annotated screenplays for films such as for Doctor Doolittle; Live and Let Die; Krakatoa, East of Java; and Annie. There are also multiple drafts of the script for the Broadway production of The Wiz, including Geoffrey Holder's production script.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged into 7 series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Photographs, (3) Scrapbooks (4) Printed material and memorabilia, (5) Carmen de Lavallade papers, (6) Geoffrey Holder papers and (7) Audiovisual materials.

Selected Search Terms

Corporate Names

Topical Terms

Geographic Names

Form/Genre Terms

Description of Series