Storied Idlewild gets its story told

Jim McFarlin, Special to The Detroit News

The memorable 2006 film “Idlewild” told the tale of a flourishing African-American community in the early 20th century that was given to splashy musical entertainment and the high life. But the cinematic Idlewild was a fictional town in Georgia, not the real-life resort destination in northwest Michigan upon which the movie obviously was based.

Idlewild was a predominately African-Ameri­can community in northwest- lower Michigan known for its splashy musical entertainment and the high life.

“There are still quite a few people, even in Michigan, who are not aware that it’s here,” says Theresa “T. Rose” Randleman, producer of next month’s Idlewild Music Festival. “They may have heard of the movie, but they had no idea that it’s an actual place with such a rich history.”

A revival weekend for ‘Black Eden’

Here are some books about the history of Idlewild:The late, Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame enshrinee, Ted Talbert, knew of its past, crafting the award-winning documentary “Idlewild: A Place in the Sun” in 1995. Longtime Idlewild resident, businessman and historian John Meeks estimates that more than a half-dozen books have been written about the town, its halcyon days and its place in black history — many of them by Professor Ronald J. Stephens of Purdue University, a Detroit native and noted Idlewild scholar.

Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan, by Ronald J. Stephens, part of the “Images of America” series (Arcadia Publishing)

Black Eden: The Idlewild Community, by Lewis Walker and Ben C. Wilson (Michigan State University Press)

Idlewild: The Rise, Decline, and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town, by Ronald J. Stephens (University of Michigan Press)

Idlewild and Woodland Park, Michigan: An African American Remembers, by Rose Louise Hammond (Run With It)

Home Sweet Sanctuary: Idlewild Families Celebrate a Century, by Gloria House (Broadside Lotus Press)