LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an Executive Order to rename Downtown Lansing’s Lansing’s Lewis Cass Building to honor civil rights legislation.
Executive Order 2020-139 renames the state-owned Lewis Cass Building in Downtown Lansing to the “Elliott-Larsen Building,” honoring the legislators who sponsored Michigan’s landmark civil rights act.
The legislation was introduced by Republican State Rep. Melvin Larsen and Democratic State Rep. Daisy Elliott in 1976 and was signed into law by Governor William Milliken in January of 1977. This change marks the first time in Michigan history that a state building is named after an African-American woman.
“Together, Melvin Larsen and Daisy Elliott’s names have become synonymous in Michigan with the protection of civil rights,” said Governor Whitmer. “In 2020, we must honor the work of our predecessors who, 44 years ago, outlined in law the vision of what we continue to strive for even today. We must hold up those who worked to build a better Michigan for us all, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. That’s why I am proud to rename the Cass building in Lansing to the Elliott-Larsen building. There is still more work to do. It’s time for the legislature to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community and make Michigan a state where more people want to move to for opportunity.”
Lewis Cass is a well-known name in Michigan and Detroit history. He was the 2nd Territorial Governor of the state, from 1813 to 1831. Cass had supported slavery, owned a slave himself, and implemented a policy that forcibly removed Native communities from their tribal lands.
The change in name comes as cities around the world re-examine their statues, monuments and buildings amid calls for an end to racism.
“Daisy Elliott and Mel Larson’s landmark legislation has removed barriers to equity, progress, and participation for Michiganders in every part of our state” said Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. “As we continue the march toward justice and equity in Michigan, naming this building for these leaders sets in stone their names as a reminder to Michigan public servants to choose inclusive ideals over closed-minded ideologies. We can and must build upon the foundation laid by Elliott and Larsen to make our state a home for opportunity for all.”
The building was first opened in 1919 and is the state’s largest government building.