December 5, 2009
The community of Idlewild Michigan was established in 1912. It is one of the oldest, most well known African American Resort communities in the United States. It began as an intellectual Mecca for people of color. The community thrived until 1964 when racial integration took place after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act
At its peak, Idlewild was called the Black Eden. The community was busy year round and many famous entertainers performed there.
It was established by a distinguished group of African American professionals who wanted the means to enjoy a recreational area away from the racist society of the large cities. Idlewild was founded during an era of extreme segregation. African Americans had very few choices for enjoying themselves away from white society. The name of the resort is reportedly chosen for idle men and wild women.
The resort reached its peak from 1920 to 1964. Some famous entertainers who performed there include: Della Reese, Jackie Wilson, George Kirby, Brook Benton, Dinah Washington, Bill Cosby, BB King and Aretha Franklin just to name a few.
Idlewild attracted many famous African Americans, even the renowned Madame C.J Walker, who was one of the first Black millionaires. The community features a lake which is very scenic and many residents have cabins all along the lake. The property is described as a “hunter’s paradise” because of the abundant deer population in Lake county. Lake County is so named because it features many scenic lakes. Other activities available in the area include camping, swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding, roller skating and night clubbing.
After Desegregation, the Vietnam War, and a national recession, the community of Idlewild suffered a severe economic loss. Many families relocated to find jobs. This exodus resulted in a sizeable loss of population. Blight and trash began to take over.
Currently, many people still find Idlewild a nice refuge from the bustling noisy cities. In 2009, the community is on its way to a rebirth. The population has slowly begun to increase as middle aged retirees take over some of the vacant properties. Idlewild recently sponsored a Jazz Festival. There is an Idlewilders weekend for the social club of the same name. More and more people are returning to enjoy the area.
Idlewild is 330 miles northwest of Detroit, Michigan or three hours and 4 hours from Chicago Illinois or 260 miles northeast.