Early Blacks in Young Saginaw
Michael Yarn

During the 1850s we arrived in this city,
To this town we came.
Because of our help, strength, and knowledge,
The economy of Saginaw never was the same.

'Heard through the Grapevine,
That there were jobs up north for us.
It seemed like a Spike Lee movie,
Because we got on the bus.

All of us took on many occupations,
But at this time,
We males mainly worked in the lumberyards,
And also in the coal mine.

Atwood ph

Lumber served a great deal in the industry,
Because of its production, it went mainstream.
And because of our strength and our productivity
The white folks that kept us down now wanted us to be on their team.

One African-American named William Q. Atwood was a good man,
Worked as a lumberjack and became a well-known lumber baron.
Born a slave but paid to be free,
In my opinion, he should've had more credit for Saginaw's history.

He was a bold person,
Doing things I wouldn't dare.
And they say slaves weren't good for nothing,
Hmmm, well this no-good slave became a wealthy millionaire.

Atwood served to do some good things,
And to think he even helped with the Underground Railroad.
But I guess this is new to y'all,
Because in school this side of the story hasn't been told.

And then there were the Goodridge brothers,
I bet y'all haven't heard of them before.
But I'm not mad at you,
So listen as I tell you more.

Because of the Goodridge Brothers,
we know about Saginaw's history.
Without their documents of Saginaw's past
The lumber era would be a mystery.

We know about Saginaw's history of lumber,
Because of the photos they took,
But in elementary to high school,
Their names or photos weren't in a schoolbook.

Well, this is all I'm about to say,
So y'all have a nice day,
And continue exploring history in your own way.

Delta College student-author Mike Yarn reads his poem at the Ceremony to induct William Q. Atwood into the Saginaw Hall of Fame. After much reading and research, Delta College students and Instructor Mary B. Looby nominated Atwood for induction into the Hall of Fame.


The written and visual works in Mid-Michigan Remembers-Stories about Us were chosen on the basis of their quality, diversity, community interest and appeal. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the College. This space is provided as a service by Delta College.