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
"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
"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.
This exhibition is eligible for funding through the
Michigan Humanities Council's Arts and Humanities Touring
Program. For more information, click
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; and Schoolcraft College, Livonia, MI.
Exhibit on display at the Kalamazoo Valley
Museum, Kalamazoo, MI.
fee (8-week period):
|| $1,000, plus shipping
||Number of pieces:
||Running feet required:
|| 50 linear feet
||Additional materials available:
||Press materials; guest speakers.
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
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.
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