'Black Eden,' The Town That Segregation Built

Idlewild, Mich., celebrates its centennial and place in history this summer.

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Idlewild, Mich., once the go-to vacation spot for African Americans during the days of Jim Crow, is celebrating its centennial this summer and its place in American history, according to NPR. Tucked away in the Huron-Manistee National Forests, the small town became known as "Black Eden," attracting big-name entertainers such as B.B. King, Della Reese, Louis Armstrong and Aretha Franklin. Despite its size, it was a boomtown.

... It was a resort unlike any other in the United States ... and was, in essence, the town that segregation built.

In the 1950s and '60s, Idlewild was just what working-class blacks were looking for: a resort that was reasonable driving distance from places like Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit -- yet invisible enough so black Americans could retreat from the ugliness of discrimination and Jim Crow.

"This is where black people could come and not have to worry about not being served or not being allowed to use the hotel or the motel or the facilities," says Maxine Martin, a longtime Idlewilder.

Martin's great-grandchildren are sixth-generation here, and she remembers coming to Idlewild in the town's heyday. That's when as many as 25,000 people swamped the town in the summer.

Read more at NPR.

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