WMU News

WMU professor's research featured on History Channel

June 8, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- A Western Michigan University professor's research on one of the nation's most famous vacation spots for African Americans will be featured this weekend on the History Channel program "Are We There Yet? America on Vacation."

Dr. Benjamin C. Wilson, WMU professor of black Americana studies, was interviewed and provided film footage for the program, which takes a look at the American family vacation. Narrated by Matthew Broderick, the two-hour program airs Friday, June 9, at 1 a.m. and 9 p.m.; and Saturday, June 10, at 4 a.m. and noon.

Wilson was contacted last winter by producers of the show who were looking for information on Idlewild, a resort 70 miles north of Grand Rapids that was once considered Michigan's "Black Las Vegas." Banned from white resorts until the 1960s, African Americans made Idlewild into one of the country's premier black vacation spots from the 1920s to the 1960s. During its heyday, this lakeside resort attracted nearly 15,000 people each summer and drew such top-notch entertainers as Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Sammy Davis Jr. and Fats Waller.

Wilson, who is working on his third book, first studied Idlewild for his dissertation which became the 1984 book "The Rural Black Heritage between Chicago and Detroit1850-1929: A Photograph Album and Random Thoughts." He has been a faculty member at WMU since 1975 and has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Michigan Council for the Arts. He also served for as a content coordinator for an award-winning cable television documentary on Idlewild that aired in 1984.

For more information, persons should contact Wilson at (616) 387-2667.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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