Traveling Michigan’s numerous rivers as early as the 1600s, the French fur traders, missionaries, and voyageurs were the area’s first white settlers, establishing posts in far-flung areas across the state. The majority of white immigrants, however, didn’t arrive until the early 1800s. Expatriate New Englanders were the first in the 1830s, grabbing up vast tracts of land in the state’s southern counties. More and more settlers followed in the next two decades, in response to a European food shortage.
During the remaining 19th and early 20th centuries, refugees from at least 40 countries arrived in record numbers. Among them were the Germans, still the largest ethnic group in Michigan. In the early 1830s, the first families settled the Ann Arbor  area and the Saginaw River valley town of Frankenmuth—today a major tourist destination, famous for its Bavarian festivals and all-you-can-eat chicken dinners.
Other early immigrants included Dutch, Irish, and Poles, who continue to make up large chunks of the state’s ethnic population. Concentrations of Dutch can still be found in Holland, a western city along Lake Michigan, where the tulip festival is one of the state’s largest tourist attractions. Poles can be found throughout the state, most notably in Detroit’s Hamtramck  neighborhood. Not far away, the Irish settled Detroit’s charming Corktown, the city’s oldest neighborhood and the former home of the Detroit Tigers .
By the beginning of the 20th century, a new wave of immigrants poured into the state from southern and eastern Europe, including Austria, Hungary, Italy, and the Balkan States. Their arrival coincided with Detroit’s  newest industry, and thousands of them went to work in the auto factories. More recent migrations included Africans, Asians, Latinos, and Middle Eastern immigrants.
Today, African Americans make up one of the most influential ethnic groups in Michigan, especially in Detroit. While the majority of blacks came from the south to work in the auto industry, there has been an African-American presence in the state since Jean de Sable traded furs in the 1600s.
From the 1830s to 1860s, Michigan played an important role in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape north to Canada. Many escapees stayed in Michigan, mostly in the L.P.’s southwest corner, where they started their own farms in towns like Benton Harbor. Still, the largest number of African Americans came to Michigan after 1910, leaving families in the Deep South to find better jobs in Detroit’s factories.
One of the state’s newest waves of immigrants has been from the Arab world, including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Michigan today has one of the largest groups of Arabic people living in cities such as Dearborn  and Southfield, where it’s not unusual to see storefront signs in Arabic and women in full headdress.
The immigrants of the Upper Peninsula  vary greatly from those of the Lower Peninsula. The iron and copper mines lured many from Sweden, Finland, Italy, and England with promises of steady work and decent wages, though despite difficult job conditions. Swedes and Finns in particular took to the U.P., at home with the area’s woods and rushing rivers. Finnish names, foods, and the ubiquitous sauna can be found throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula , and Hancock  remains largely Finnish, down to its street signs. Farther south, in Detroit , the Finnish Saarinen family helped develop Cranbrook Academy , a well-known private school and arts community near Detroit.