Founded in 1912, Idlewild in Lake County, Michigan, was one of the leading African American resorts in the era of Jim Crow segregation. White land developers marketed Idlewild as an all-Negro resort town in Lake County, Michigan, about 300 miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois and 250 miles north of Detroit, through the Idlewild Resort Company.
Although founded in 1912, resort property sales lagged until Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (founder of Chicago’s Provident Hospital), and the leading Black surgeon at the time, became the first famous property owner in 1915. Williams retired at Idlewild and died there in 1931. His presence attracted colleagues and associates from Chicago, and eventually, prominent Black doctors from other Midwestern cities began purchasing property there.
Idlewild became known as Michigan’s Black Eden and was a popular spot for prominent Black Americans like attorney Violette Neatley Anderson, the first Black woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court; and millionaire Madam C.J. Walker, a businesswoman in the beauty industry.
- Stephens, J.Ronald. 2011. “Idlewild, Michigan (1912-).” Blackpast.
- Stephens, J.Ronald. 2013. Idlewild: The Rise, Decline, and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town. University of Michigan. p. 16.
- Postcard of Community Tabernacle in Idlewild, Michigan. circa 1955. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.