Sign unveiled at Elliott-Larsen Building in Lansing

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 for the Elliott-Larsen Building 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.

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.

“When the team suggested we rename this building after these two leaders in our state, in this tumultuous time, more than ever, I though it was an important statement of who we are and what we believe in — that we are Republican and Democratic, but we are Michiganders first,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said.

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.”

The building used to bear the name of Lewis Cass, a former Michigan governor, U.S. senator and member of President Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet. He was also a slave owner and responsible for policies that forcibly relocated Native Americans.

— web staff contributed to this report.