Northern Michigan History: Recalling the Dazzle of Idlewild

Northern Michigan History:A hundred years ago, when segregation still barred African-Americans from the nation’s premier nightclubs and theaters, a group of African-Americans established an entertainment resort around a small lake near Baldwin, in the woods of Northern Michigan. They called it Idlewild, a place to escape the summer heat while enjoying a parade of America’s all-time greatest performers. Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, Bill Cosby, Etta James, The Four Tops and many more played here.

Idlewild dried up when Civil Rights laws banned segregation, but the legacy of Idlewild lives on, and this summer, Nichole Braggs is hoping to re-ignite the spirit of Idlewild through a reunion. Nichole is the daughter of one of Idlewild’s standout promoters, Arthur Braggs, and Carlean, one of the lovely and talented Fiesta Dolls. They owned Idlewild’s Paradise Club, and Arthur was central to attracting big-name talent. Because many attendees will be elderly, much of the reunion will take place in Detroit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Sunday, August 26), but Nichole is arranging a bus tour to Idlewild, a visit to what was once a glamorous hideaway for African-Americans throughout the Midwest and beyond.

More information at 989.392.5020. [email protected]

This article was first featured in the June 2012 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Click here to order your copy today!

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