Black Eden : Idlewild Community / Edition 1

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Black Eden chronicles the history of Idlewild, a Michigan black community founded during the aftermath of the Civil War. As one of the nation’s most popular black resorts, Idlewild functioned as a gathering place for African Americans, and more importantly as a touchstone of black identity and culture. Benjamin C. Wilson and Lewis Walker examine Idlewild’s significance within a historical context, as well as the town’s revitalization efforts and the need for comprehensive planning in future development. In a segregated America, Idlewild became a place where black audiences could see rising black entertainers.
     Profusely illustrated with photos from the authors’ personal collections, Black Eden provides a lengthy discussion about the crucial role that Idlewild played in the careers of artists such as Louis Armstrong, B. B. King, Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, and Della Reese. Fundamentally, the book explores issues involved in living in a segregated society, the consequences of the civil rights movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent integration, and the consequences of integration vs. racial solidarity. The authors ask: Did integration kill Idlewild?, suggesting rather that other factors contributed to its decline.

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Editorial Reviews

Before the memories are totally faded, Western Michigan University scholars Walker (sociology) and Wilson (Africana studies) chronicle Idlewild, Michigan as one of the black towns and rural communities that emerged in various part of the US in the aftermath of the Civil War and in the early 20th century. They highlight selected eras in the black resort where residents from nearby cities sought relief from the heat and the racism. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870136221
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 269
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lewis Walker is Emeritus Professor of Scoiology at Western Michigan University.

Benjamin C. Wilson is Professor of Black Americana Studies at Western Michigan University and author of The Rural Black Heritage Between Chicago and Detroit, 1850-1929.

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Table of Contents

1 Establishing the Foundations of a Black Resort in Michigan 1
2 Continuation of a Good Deal 29
3 The Popular Place to Be 47
4 An Emergent Black Entertainment Showcase 69
5 Some Intended and Unintended Consequences in the Black Community During the Civil Rights Era 121
6 A Snapshot of Idlewild's Contemporary Social Status 149
7 Revitalization: 1960-2000 Activities 169
8 A Need for a Comprehensive Strategic Plan: Some Suggestions 195
9 An Epilogue for Idlewild 221
App. 1 Sample Coupons 240
App. 2 Scott's Letter of Endorsement 241
App. 3 Curry's Letter of Endorsement 242
App. 4 Some Early Pioneers in Idlewild 243
App. 5 Purchase Agreement Letter 244
App. 6 Sheet Music: "Idlewild" 245
App. 7 Sheet Music: "(Idlewild) Duett Chorus: Tango Dance" 247
Notes 249
Index 261
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2002

    The forgotten history of Michigan

    As an undergraduate assistant to Dr. Wilson, my opinion is biased. The information in this book covers not just the black community of Michigan but of the United States. Not all black folks in the Great Lakes State live or come from Motown. The "chitlin" circuit ran through these parts and built the careers of a number of legends. "Black Eden" reminds us of the family atmosphere we once had and the conditions that we have overcome. A bit technical at times with statistics and figures, it is a people's history.

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