Michigan renames building to honor civil rights leaders

LANSING, Mich (AP) — A state building previously named after a slave owner now bears the name of two former state legislators who led efforts to reform Michigan's civil rights laws.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials unveiled the new sign in a ceremony in Lansing on Monday. It marks the first time in state history a state building is named after an African-American woman.

Formerly known as the Lewis Cass Building, after a former U.S. senator from Michigan and slave owner, the building will now be called the Elliott-Larsen Building.

Reps. Daisy Elliott, a Detroit Democrat and Mel Larsen, an Oakland County Republican, sponsored the 1977 Civil Rights Act that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

Larsen spoke at the ceremony about how proud he is to have his name next to Elliott's and his hope that Michigan can take the next step by adding the same protections for those of the LGBTQ community.

Badriyyah Sabree, the granddaughter of Elliott, spoke on her grandmother's behalf. Elliot died in 2015.

"We can never give up as long as there is discrimination of any kind of any people," Sabree said. “We must be ever vigilant.”

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.