A literary and musical celebration of the history and legacy of Paradise Valley and its historic connections to the Idlewild resort and Saginaw, MI. Public discussion with scholars and writers on this 100 year-old legacy. Live reading and musical performance following the program.
Panel discussion moderated by Michelle Johnson, Ph.D., community historian/arts and cultural producer, with Denise Miller, poet and author of CORE, Qiana Towns, award-winning poet, scholar, Coordinator of Community Outreach from Flint and author of This is Not the Exit and Ken Coleman, author of Million Dollars Worth of Nerve.
During the Great Migration, millions of African Americans moved North in search of work, only to find themselves facing racial discrimination in housing and employment. This problem led to the rise of districts such as Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood and Paradise Valley, a distinctive African American business and entertainment sector, as well as Idlewild, an entertainment resort community in Lake County, Michigan. Prominent figures including Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and millionaire Madam C.J. Walker purchased Idlewild property. At its height, there were nearly 25,000 Idlewild vacationers and more than 300 black-owned businesses. Some African Americans bypassed Detroit’s automobile industry for work in Saginaw’s iron foundries instead, where they also faced discrimination. Saginaw businessman Arthur Braggs’ Paradise Club in Idlewild hosted entertainers such as The Four Tops, Etta James, and Aretha Franklin. The story of the Saginaw connection was virtually unknown.
Passage to Paradise is made possible in part by a grant from Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or Michigan Humanities Council.