This year, the Cab Calloway Foundation was invited to celebrate Cab’s legacy at the 6th annual Idlewild Music Festival, scheduled for the summer of 2021. CCF is honored to be a part of commemorating Idlewild as a historic African American landmark.
The early 20th century “Black Eden” of Michigan, Idlewild was one of the few resorts where African Americans could vacation and purchase property before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Local venues like the Paradise Club, the Flamingo Club, and Club El Morocco hosted Cab and many of the biggest entertainers of the day such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Aretha Franklin, and Dinah Washington. Notable property owners included W.E.B. DuBois, Madame CJ Walker, and Cab’s friend and saxophonist Dizzy Gillespie.
Hundreds of black-owned business flourished. However, when legal segregation ended, so did Idlewild’s appeal as a popular destination for African-American vacationers. Florida beaches and Las Vegas casinos newly attracted those that wished to no longer be invisible.
But the significance and spirit of Idlewild is not forgotten. Last year at the festival, relatives of Langston Hughes shared family artifacts and discussed with attendees the poet’s contributions to the Harlem Renaissance and African American culture. The Cab Calloway Foundation looks forward to continuing this conversation as the featured honoree of next year’s festival.