Going through trials, tribulations and triumphs

With faith, strength and determination Idlewild is still surviving as one of the first black resorts in America. Our cry is, “we are not going to let it die.”

In the 1920s we experienced little progress in ending discrimination. But our determining factor was to build pride and a better life for our selves and our children.

Leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey preached black pride and self confidence. The ghetto was home, a black world where black men and women could be themselves. Black writers, musicians and artists found in the ghettos an audience that unleashed their creativity.

Harlem, a part of Manhattan cut by racial suspicion, was in fact the largest “Black City” in the world. Here was the center of a cultural revitalization called the Harlem Renaissance. Newspapers and magazines along with theater troupes and libraries owned by African Americans flourished.

War-born tensions all found expression in an old rift in American society - the conflict between urban and rural ways. The 1920 census revealed that for the first time, more Americans lived in urban rather than rural areas. To those scattered millions who tilled the soil and lived in small towns, city-centered culture of the 1920s seemed sinful, materialistic, and unhealthy. Many Americans - white and black - adopted Fundamentalism, conservative religious views.

What is amazing about Idlewild, which was founded in 1912, was that it was able to weather the storms through all this turmoil and actually expand throughout the roaring twenties. Many Americans, including blacks, found a new way to enjoy life. People were casting off old ways and seeking new ways to express themselves.

Young women in particular seemed determined to free themselves from restricting “out of date” ideas and rules. The Nineteeth Amendment had given them the right to vote in 1920. They were able to cast off uncomfortable (and unhealthy) corsets and thick petticoats in favor of short skirts and loose fitting clothing. They cut their hair short, and they wore makeup.

The music that most Americans listened to and danced to during the 1920s was also new. Jazz was created by black musicians in New Orleans in the late 1800s. It grew out of the “Blues” - music that reflected the hard life and tough-minded humor of most African Americans. It was called “The Jazz Age.”

The 1920s had it’s full share of gangsters, corrupt politicians and other villians. In the 1920s motion pictures became an important art form and one of the ten largest industries in the nation. Radio extended the power of “Mass Media” previously held by newspapers. Of all the forces reshaping American life in the 1920s, the automobile probably had the greatest effect. Henry Ford was the key figure in this new industry. The automobile fueled an economic boom. Also, automobiles had a great impact on society. America was enjoying the greatest period of prosperity in its history.

Prosperity made people ambitious and optimistic. Many developed a “get-rich-quick” attitude. They wanted to make a fortune in the stock market. On October 24, 1929 investors wanted to sell stocks instead of but them. The prices of stocks plunged. On October 29, a day known as “Black Tuesday,” the great stock market crashed. The prosperity of the 1920s was over. The period after the market crash was known as the “Great Depression. Idlewild survived because few blacks invested in the stock market. More of them felt it was safer to bury their money in coffee cans.

William Mc Clure is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.