Academic Historian

Ronald J. Stephens is Professor of African American Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue University. He received his Ph. D. from Temple University, and a B. A. and M. As degrees from Wayne State University. Stephens, a Detroit native, is the author of Idlewild: The Rise, Decline, and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town from the University of Michigan Press, Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan from Arcadia Publishing, and co-curator of Welcome to Idlewild, a Michigan State University Museum traveling photographic exhibition (2003-present).

In addition to his publications about Idlewild, Dr. Stephens has published essays about other topics involving African American culture and community studies.  Specializing in twentieth century African American history and culture, Professor Stephens has also worked as a research assistant on Ted Talbert’s award-winning documentary-film Idlewild: A Place in the Sun, and appeared on and been cited in Idlewild: The Real Thing (an edition of Tony Brown’s Journal), Idlewild (an NPR production), Idlewild: Rebuilding Paradise (a Flint’s ABC 12 Special program), Are We There Yet? Americans on Vacation (a History Channel program), Idlewild, Michigan: A Black Historical Resort (on Milwaukee’s Black Nouveau series), and Historic African-American Towns (a High Noon Productions program for Home and Gardens Television).

Bruce’s Beach, Manhattan Beach, California (1920- )

A small beach resort community in the city of Manhattan Beach, California, Bruce’s Beach was once owned by and operated for African Americans with no opportunities to vacation at white resorts due to segregation. Bruce’s Beach was one of the few beaches in Southern California … Read MoreBruce’s Beach, Manhattan Beach, California (1920- )

Chicken Bone Beach, Atlantic City, New Jersey (1900- )

Located on the long stretch of the Atlantic City, New Jersey, shoreline just south of downtown, Chicken Bone Beach was designated as the exclusively African American section of beach around 1900.  It remained a blacks only beach until the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.  … Read MoreChicken Bone Beach, Atlantic City, New Jersey (1900- )

Woodland Park, Michigan (1921- )

Woodland Park, Michigan was a small resort established by Marion E. Auther, a black Ohio businessman and leading salesman for the Idlewild Resort Company, the same company that developed the much more famous Idlewild resort.  Woodland Park began when the Brookings Lumber Company sold the … Read MoreWoodland Park, Michigan (1921- )

American Beach, Jacksonville, Florida (1936- )

American Beach, the only beach in Florida that welcomed black Americans and offered safe, secure overnight accommodations during Jim Crow segregation, was founded in 1935 by the Afro-American Life Insurance Company (AALIC) which was established in 1901 to provide the Jacksonville, Florida black community with … Read MoreAmerican Beach, Jacksonville, Florida (1936- )