The former Lewis Cass state building in downtown Lansing has been renamed the Elliot Larsen Building following an executive order from the governor this week. The move honors the authors of the state’s landmark civil rights act, Daisy Elliot and Melvin Larsen. Professor Dewitt Dykes, Jr. from Oakland University reflected on the work done by the two.
“They were able to get a legislature to go along with passing a law,” Dykes told Michigan News Network. “There was already a Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which covered some but not all of those things, and so to pass a law to beef up the ability of the Civil Rights Commission to enforce the principles, that was a big deal at the time.”
Cass, whose name is being removed from the building, was a territorial governor of Michigan and a former U.S. Senator who went on to serve as Secretary of War in the Andrew Jackson administration. Cass was one of the architects of the Indian Removal during the 1830s. The change announced this week marks the first time a state-owned building in Michigan has been named in honor of a Black woman.