The racism of the early twentieth century kept America’s black middle class away from most of the resorts, restaurants, and clubs enjoyed by their white counterparts.
But in the forest of northwest Michigan was a place apart, a “Black Eden” known as Idlewild. Here, black writers, thinkers, physicians, and entrepreneurs found a safe haven where they could escape the toxic weight of racism and segregation and simply relax.
“Everyone was like family to you,” said Edna Brown, who first came as a baby in 1940 and has since retired in Idlewild. “And you knew that there was no door that would ever be closed to you here.”
It rose to prominence as a meeting place for black intellectuals and reached national fame as a place to see and rub shoulders with some of the most famous black entertainers of all time. But the Idlewild Resort was first conceived by white business people who saw an opportunity.
In 1912, four white couples, two from Chicago and two from Michigan, formed an alliance called the Idlewild Resort Company (IRC).
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