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Idlewild's connection to the Green Book

There’s a Northern Michigan connection to a guide that was created by a New York City postal worker, Victor Hugo Green to help keep African American travelers safe during the time of segregation.

The book features several businesses in the Idlewild area of Lake County that were considered safe havens.

Local historians said that Idlewild was a safe place for African Americans, during a time when Jim Crow Laws were on the books, that made discrimination legal.

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Idlewild historian Chris Grier said for black travelers, being caught in the wrong area could be very dangerous and, in some cases, even deadly.

“There was fear of retribution, fear of lynching, fear of horrible things that would happen if they found themselves in those towns after sundown,” said Grier.

Grier said after the Civil War and reconstruction, black people began to flourish until laws were created to restrict them.

He said it was a dangerous time for black travelers and violence against them was common.

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“Blacks had an extreme fear for their lives in certain places and spaces,” said Grier.

The guide featured numerous hotels & motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses where black people were welcome.

Grier said he was surprised at the number of places in Idlewild named in the book, at times more than in Detroit or Grand Rapids.

“Idlewild was created for blacks in 1912. I think the reason it had more places in it is because it was intentionally at the onset to be a space for people in the Midwest and then from all over the country,” said Grier.

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Lake County Historical Society President, Bruce Micinski said without the book, travelers would only know about safe havens by word of mouth.

“We’ve heard of the Underground Railroad. The Green Book was the overground railroad,” said Micinski.

Idlewild isn’t the only place in Northern Michigan found in the Green Book. In the 1941 edition, locations in Baldwin and Bitely can also be found.

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