The Historical Idlewild

Idlewild_BlackEden_RonaldStephensWhile OutKast’s new movie Idlewild (IMDB, official site) may be set in a fictional Georgia town in the 1930s, it shares a name with an actual Michigan place. Idlewild, Michigan was founded in 1912 by a group of four white businessmen as an African American resort community for the growing black middle class.

The creators sold property to a number of prominent African Americans and the community grew rapidly, developing a reputation as a “Black Eden” — an intellectual and cultural mecca. Although the resort declined in popularity after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a core of year-round residents remained. The Idlewild African American Chamber of Commerce website contains a variety of historical information, and Wikipedia provides a good historical overview of the community and many links to further reading. The graphic is the cover of this book on Idlewild history.

As for the movie, Rolling Stone didn’t seem to like it, but Salon did, and it’s polling just about even on Rotten Tomatoes.

Author: Rob Goodspeed