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Michigan Traditions and Traditional Arts

Welcome to Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan

"Great Display! Very informative. I know a lot more about Idlewild than before."

"I never knew this was in Michigan. I'm going to look up more about it."

"It was great to see the exhibit. So well put together. Brought back a ton of memories."

"Many compliments for both content and appearance."

"A very nice resource from an outstanding group. Great job of collaboration."

"Lived here 50+ years, never knew it existed. Very nice history"

"Great display and info about the real Idlewild"

—Visitor comments, Hedrik Meijer Library, Muskegon Community College, Muskegon, MI

Idlewild, located in rural northwestern Michigan, holds a special place in the nation's segregated history. For many years, this "Black Eden" was one of only a few resorts in the country where African-Americans could vacation and purchase property. From 1912 through the mid-1960s, Idlewild was an active year-round community and was visited by well-known entertainers and professionals from throughout the country. At its peak it was the most popular resort in the Midwest and as many as 25,000 would come to Idlewild in the height of the summer season to enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, roller skating and night-time entertainment. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act opened up other resorts to African-Americans, Idlewild's boomtown period subsided but the community continues to be an important place for vacationers and retirees. Idlewild also holds special meaning as a place for younger generations of African-Americans seeking to learn about their heritage.

This exhibition, created in collaboration with current residents and scholars of Idlewild, consists of handsome, free-standing photographic interpretive banners and a reproduction of an Idlewild history quilt by Michigan quilter Deonna Todd Green. It traces through words and images the development of the Idlewild community from its inception in the early twentieth century to the present day. It glimpses beyond the often told stories of Idlewild's entertainment scene during its resort heyday period to tell the full story of a community that has survived the challenges of historical change.


Love's Jazz and Arts Center
Omaha, Nebraska
February 1- April 1, 2018

This exhibition has been displayed at the following sites: Hendrik Meijer Library, Muskegon Community College, Muskegon, MI; Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo, MI; Mason County District Library, Ludington, MI; Montcalm Community College, Sidney, MI; MSU Extension Conference, Kellogg Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Newaygo County Council for the Arts, Fremont, MI; Southfield Public Library, Southfield, MI; Flint Public Library, Flint, MI; Willilam P. Faust Public Library, Westland, MI; Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI, The Village Theater at Cherry Hill, Canton, MI; The Dennos Museum Center, Traverse City, MI; Schoolcraft College, Livonia, MI; Lorenzo Cultural Center at Macomb Community College, Clinton Twp., MI; West Shore Community College, Scottville, MI; and Big Rapids Festival of the Arts, Big Rapids, MI.

Photo of the Idlewild Exhibition on Display
Exhibit on display at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo, MI.

  Rental fee (8-week period): $1,000, plus shipping
  Number of pieces: 11
  Running feet required: 50 linear feet
  Insurance Value: $5,500
  Security requirement: None
  Additional materials available: Press materials

Learn more about Idlewild:

Ronald J. Stephens, Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan. Chicago, Illinois: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Lewis Walker and Ben C. Wilson, The Idlewild Community: Black Eden. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 2002.

Ted Talbert, Idlewild: A Place in the Sun, WDIV-TV (Channel 4), Detroit, Michigan.

This traveling exhibition is supported by grants from the Michigan Humanities Council, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Research Council for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with in-kind support from the Idlewild Historical Museum and Cultural Center and Michigan State University Museum.

Photo of Idlewild Club House circa 1926

PICTURED: Resorters at the Idlewild Club House, ca. 1926. Photo courtesy of Ben C. Wilson.





































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