February 27th, 2013
Club Indigo was organized for the social, athletic and civic advancement of the African-American community. The members and their guests could enjoy meals, drinks, and dancing in a refined atmosphere.
Mrs. Floyd H. Skinner’s column, posted regularly in the Chicago Defender, maintained, “Club Indigo was the only sepia night spot in Grand Rapids.”
In the late 1930s, Mrs. Skinner, who covered social events staged by Grand Rapids’ African-American community, wrote, “Club Indigo was organized for the social, athletic, and civic advancement of our group where its members and their guests may enjoy meals, beer, mixed drinks, and dancing in a refined atmosphere.”
The entertainment provided at Club Indigo’s frequent dances and popular ”floor shows” was similar to presentations at Idlewild or other venues on what was then called the “chitlin circuit.” Johnny Edwards, from Idlewild’s Paradise Club, served as MC.
The club booked talent from Lansing, Saginaw, Battle Creek, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and New York. When an African American theatrical company from Chicago performed the musical, “Shuffle Along,” at the Keith Theater, the entire cast was invited to Club Indigo. One cast member, an eighteen-year-old pianist from Chicago, was Nat (“King”) Cole. His band also played that night, though this was well before he enjoyed his highly successful recording career.
The club was located at 746 S. Division in Roma Hall, owned by the Russo family. Rental or purchase of a venue for an African-American club would have been difficult, if not impossible, in the 1930s and 40s. Russo, an immigrant familiar with prejudice, welcomed Club Indigo.
|Keywords||WYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; history; African Americans; entertainment|
|Pubdate String||February 27th, 2013|