The fifth annual Idlewild Festival Music Weekend commemorates and celebrates the history of well-known African-American entertainers and professionals who owned property and performed at the historic resort community in Western Michigan. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation laws allowed Whites to not accommodate Blacks and places that welcomed Blacks, such as Idlewild, sprung up around the country.
In Idlewild, African-Americans could vacation and purchase property and people referred to Idlewild as the "Black Eden." With about 3,000 acres under Black ownership, it is historically the largest land based African American resort ever assembled in the USA says promoter Theresa Randleman.
W.E.B. Dubois owned property there. So did Dizzy Gillespie, author Charles Waddell Chesnutt, Fisk University President Lemuel Foster, Madam C.J. Walker, and dozens of doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Etta James, Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine, Jackie Wilson, B.B. King, and Sarah Vaughan were among the hundreds of musicians who performed in the town's many clubs.