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Marilyn Holifield

Lawyer Marilyn Holifield was born in Tallahassee, Florida on June 17, 1948 to Millicent and Bishop Holifield, Sr. She attended the University of Florida A&M’s Lab School, before transferring to Leon High School in 1963 where she was among the first three African Americans to ever graduate from the school in 1965. Holifield then attended Swarthmore University, where she received her B.A. degree in economics with a concentration in black studies, and was a founding member of the Swarthmore Afro-American Student Society (SASS). In 1972, she graduated from Harvard Law School with her J.D. degree.

From 1972 to 1977, Holifield worked as an assistant counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York City, responsible for litigating class action employment lawsuits in Florida, Alabama, and Missouri, and a major prison reform suit in Georgia. She subsequently served as general counsel for the New York State Division for Youth under Peter Edelman until 1978. Holifield was then hired as a law clerk for the late Appellate Judge Paul Roney in St. Petersburg, Florida, a role she held until 1979. In 1981, she joined the Holland & Knight law firm in Tampa, Florida as its first African American associate. Holifield was transferred to the Miami office in 1984, and made partner in 1986, becoming the first black female partner of a major Florida law firm. Here, her areas of focus included class action litigation and arbitration; labor, employment and benefits; civil rights, discrimination and retaliation; and labor and employment class actions. In 2018, in her capacity as a director for the Miami-Dade North Arts and Humanities Foundation, Holifield helped to establish The Miami Museum of Contemporary Art of the African Diaspora (Miami MOCAAD).

Holifield has served on a multitude of boards, including Swarthmore College’s board of managers, the University of Miami’s board of trustees, the Swarthmore Black Alumni Network (co-founding member), Harvard Alumni Association, and the Harvard Board of Overseers.

She has won numerous awards for her legal work, including Holland & Knight’s highest honor, the Chesterfield Smith Award, in 2000. Holifield was also the recipient of the Anti-Defamation League's Jurisprudence Award in 2011, the 2012 National Bar Association's Gertrude E. Rush Award, HistoryMiami’s Legal Legend Award in 2014, and the 2019 David W. Dyer Professionalism Award presented by the Dade County Bar Association.

Marilyn Holifield was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 18, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.076

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/18/2019

Last Name

Holifield

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

J.

Occupation
Schools

Swarthmore College

Harvard Law School

Florida A&M University Developmental Research School

Leon High School

Nathan B. Young Elementary School

First Name

Marilyn

Birth City, State, Country

Tallahassee

HM ID

HOL25

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard and New York

Favorite Quote

Reach higher, think bigger.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

6/17/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Miami

Favorite Food

Vegetables (Spinach and Greens) and Fish

Short Description

Lawyer Marilyn Holifield (1948- ) was hired as the law firm Holland & Knight’s first African American attorney in 1981, and when she made partner in 1986, she became the first black female partner of a major Florida law firm.

Employment

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

New York State Division for Youth

United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Holland & Knight

Favorite Color

Red, Purple, and Blue

Susan Fales-Hill

Author, television writer and producer Susan Fales-Hill was born on August 15, 1962 in Rome, Italy to Timothy Fales and Haitian-American actress, Josephine Premice. Fales-Hill was raised in New York City, and graduated from the Lycee Francais de New York in 1980. In 1985, she graduated with her B.A. degree in history and literature from Harvard University.

Upon graduation, Fales-Hill began an apprenticeship as a writer on The Cosby Show. In 1987, she transferred to the show’s spin-off, A Different World, where she worked as a story editor. In 1990, Fales-Hill was promoted to co-executive producer and head writer. Then, in 1995, she became executive producer of the CBS sitcom, Can't Hurry Love. In 1996, Fales-Hill served first as executive producer of the family-oriented situation comedy, Kirk, then as a consulting producer on the television series Suddenly Susan. In 1998, she co-created with Tim Reid the Showtime original series Linc's, and served for two seasons as its executive producer and head writer.

In 2003, Fales-Hill published Always Wear Joy: My Mother Bold and Beautiful, a critically acclaimed memoir about her mother. The book was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award and the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Nonfiction. It was an Atlanta Daily Choice Awards winner, and received a starred review from Kirkus. Fales-Hill has authored two other books: 2010’s novel, One Flight Up, and 2013’s Imperfect Bliss. She has also written several magazine articles that have appeared in Town & Country, Vogue, Glamour, American Heritage, Ebony, Essence, Avenue, and Travel and Leisure.

From 2003 to 2006, Fales-Hill served as an elected director of the Harvard Alumni Association, and from 2003 to 2010 as a member of Harvard University’s Committee on University Resources. She also served on the boards of the Studio Museum of Harlem and the American Ballet Theatre. From 2004 to 2007, Fales-Hill co-chaired the American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala.

Fales-Hill has also received many honors and awards. Under her leadership, A Different World was nominated for the prestigious Humanitas Award. The episode she wrote on AIDS, "If I Should Die Before I Wake," received the 1991 Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood, the 13th Annual Media Access Award from the California Governor's Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons, and the Nancy Susan Reynolds Award. Fales-Hill has also received the the Producer’s Guild of America’s Nova award, a “Special Recognition Award” from the Friends of the Black Emmys, and the Excellence and Heritage Award from Dillard University. In 2001, she was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

Susan Fales-Hill was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 13, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.321

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/13/2013

Last Name

Fales-Hill

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Harvard University

Lycee Francais de New York

First Name

Susan

Birth City, State, Country

Rome

HM ID

FAL01

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Tomorrow Is Another Day.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/15/1962

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Italy

Favorite Food

Bread

Short Description

Television producer Susan Fales-Hill (1962 - ) was a writer on the Cosby Show and A Different World; executive producer of Can’t Hurry Love and Kirk; and co-creator of the Showtime original series Linc’s. She also authored three books: Always Wear Joy: My Mother Bold and Beautiful, One Flight Up and Imperfect Bliss.

Employment

NBC

CBS

Warner Brothers

Showtime

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Susan Fales-Hill's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her Haitian heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her father's heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the social scene of her parents' youth

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her early home on the Upper West Side of New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the sights sound and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls her early household

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her everyday routine as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her interests and pursuits as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls attending Lycee Francais de New York in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her early understanding of racism, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her early understanding of racism, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the role of racial discussion in mixed race homes

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her parents' emphasis on embracing racial and ethnic identity

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls the role of race in her early life

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the struggles of successful African American actresses

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls the importance of etiquette in her early years

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about the selfie controversy at Nelson Mandela's funeral

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls childhood visits to her paternal grandparents

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her favorite subjects in school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers being accepted to Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls her classmates at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her first impression of Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls how she was treated by her fellow Harvard University classmates

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers working for the Legal Aid Society in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her work during her summers in college

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her major at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her father's affair

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls meeting Bill Cosby

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers working with 'The Cosby Show' writing team

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the work environment in the writing room

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls her family's sense of humor

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about television consultant Dr. Alvin Poussaint

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her experiences on the writing staff of 'The Cosby Show'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the characters in 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about the creation of 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls writing the character Whitley Gilbert

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers advice from Diahann Carroll

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls her mother's response to her work

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her favorite episodes of 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about life in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls the camaraderie on the set of 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers the cancellation of 'A Different World'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers working on the television show 'Can't Hurry Love'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls shooting the pilot episode of 'Kirk' in Paris, France

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about black television series in the 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill recalls working on the television series 'Linc's'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her decision to leave the entertainment business

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her transition from television production to novel writing

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her process in writing 'Always Wear Joy'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers how she chose her novel topics

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her writing process

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Susan Fales-Hill describes the themes in her novel 'Imperfect Bliss'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Susan Fales-Hill remembers her work with arts and culture organizations in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her views about her community involvement

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Susan Fales-Hill reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Susan Fales-Hill talks about her future aspirations

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Susan Fales-Hill describes her hopes for the entertainment industry

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Susan Fales-Hill reflects upon her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Susan Fales-Hill describes her father's family background, pt. 2
Susan Fales-Hill recalls shooting the pilot episode of 'Kirk' in Paris, France
Transcript
And, when my father [Timothy Fales] started seeing my mother [Josephine Premice] and, you know, was going to marry her, my grandfather [DeCoursey Fales, Sr.] was not pleased. My grandmother [Dorothy Mitchell Fales] said, "I'm gonna meet her, and make my own decisions." And, this was a woman who, I mean, she was from--when people watched 'Downton Abbey' she was from the American equivalent of that. People think of the American equivalent of that as, you know, Newport [Rhode Island] and that's not it. Those were the more sort of to be, blunt, nouveau [nouveau riche] Haiti people. It was more of the people that you read about in 'The Age of Innocence,' the Edith Wharton novels; the old, old families. That's really the equivalent in terms of the mentality and the lifestyle. They went fox hunting. It was, anyway, so, she didn't even have black help. And, certainly, she was from a very class bound caste. And, so, she met mother, she took her to lunch at the Colony Club [New York, New York], down the street here (laughter). Where I think that they--I don't think they had black help there either. They're probably Irish ladies who probably dropped their trays in the shock. But, she liked my mother and that was that. And, my parents moved to Italy when they first got married because they experienced so much backlash and hatred. And, father lost his job, and name expunged from the Social Register, and they were getting hate mail. Their parents were getting hate mail. My grandmother interestingly, again, with a sense of history kept all the hate mail she got. Even the letters from illiterate people in the South. Every single piece of mail. Ugly letters from friends, mentioned friends who wrote her letters of condolence when my father married my mother. And, she kept it all. And, it's all in the family archive. I'm grateful to her for that when I wrote my book about my mother ['Always Wear Joy: My Mother Bold and Beautiful,' Susan Fales-Hill], I saw all of this for the first time. And, again, I thought how remarkable for someone to be aware that this was worthy of being kept. That it was important. That it would be a fascinating artifact, happily (laughter). This is not the--what the reaction would be today, probably. So, and then, when my parents moved, my grandmother would come and see us in Italy when we were living there. And, then when we came back when I was two, my grandfather finally said, "All right, what am I doing?" (Laughter), "I'm gonna get myself together," and so he embraced us. And, the rest of the family had always--part of them felt, well, the poor children. I mean, the usual attitude to all those tragic mulattos, they'll never fit in anywhere (laughter). They're gonna be, you know, like Pinky [Pinky Johnson] (laughter). So, but, they never harbored any resentment and actually a member of the Chubb family, you know the famous insurance, only they're old friends of my father's family. And, I was working on a project in Hollywood and one of them was working out there and we were on the phone and I said, "Oh, I think our families know each other." And, he said to me, "Yes, when I saw your name, I asked." And then, I can tell he, he didn't, he didn't wanna say, but he didn't, he said, "But, then I--I didn't think you would be related." And, it was obvious 'cause I was black. So, we met and he--took him a long time to sort of process, you know. So, your father married your mother and then finally he looked at me and he said, "Oh, but then again, your family was so ancient, they could afford it." And, it was almost like, they could afford the blow (laughter). You know what, a more social climbing family who were trying to establish themselves, who didn't have this history wouldn't've been able to (air quotes) afford (laughter) the blow to their status of having black relatives. But, you know, it was like you're old nobility so you can, you know, you just get absorbed in it. It was very funny. It was such an interesting reflection. So, anyway, it's all, for me more than anything, historically fascinating. And, you know, when I read an Edith Wharton novel, that's, that's, my father's family's world. As again, particularly something like 'The Age of Innocence,' which really talks about that set, that, that came here in the 17th century. And, all associated together and had a certain noblesse oblige attitude. And, worshiped down at Grace Church [New York, New York], where my family still has a pew. And, so, I wanna meet Julian Fellowes, the createor of 'Downton Abbey,' 'cause I know he's doing again, the American version and I wanna say, "It's not Newport," (laughter). Go to Middleburg [Virginia]. Go to Gladstone, New Jersey [Peapack and Gladstone, New Jersey], that's, that's where you'll find the counterparts to the Crawleys.$Then you go with Warner Bro- [Warner Brothers Television], or?$$ Warner Brothers, exactly. I made a deal with Warner Brothers and I did Kirk Cameron's show ['Kirk'], which was a family oriented show. So, that I enjoyed more just because the messages were positive. It was a sweet little show. I can't even quite remember the premise. But, oh, and, we got to shoot our season opener in Paris [France], which was a blast. Because--$$You love Paris? You love Paris?$$ I love Paris and also they, they produced 'Family Matters;' the same company.$$I see.$$ And, so, they were gonna have these two characters get married. And, it was cheaper to go to Paris with the 'Family Matters' cast, who were already shooting over there and piggyback on all their stuff. Than it was to take Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble to Las Vegas [Nevada]. So, (laughter) we went to Paris. So, that was, I mean, to go a shoot on the streets of Paris, what greater experience is there? We had a hilarious incident where we were supposed to, they were supposed to do a scene where they were splashing around in the fountain. And, they had booked the Trocadero [Paris, France] and the fountain was being cleaned the day that they had booked. And, of course, you know, being French bureaucracy, there was no one at work, that person was on strike. So, it was like, how are we gonna do this fountain in a dry fountain? So, we're going around Paris trying to basically do a gorilla shoot 'cause we have no permit. And, we show up at one fountain in the 6th arrondissement, and of course a policeman comes along. And, he was African and I could tell he was Senegalese. So, I started speaking to him in French. And, I said, "You're Senegalese aren't you?" And, he said, "Yes." And, I said, "So, am I. I'm half Senegalese." And, so, I'm chatting and chatting and meanwhile they get to get this shot. (Laughter) But then I--$$(Laughter) They got, they got the shot (simultaneous)?$$ (Simultaneous) They got the shot. They got the shot (laughter). Anyway, it was, it was hysterical.$$(Laughter) That's--that's cute itself.