Civil rights

Civil rights legend Daisy Elliott was born Michigan Advance


On November 26, 1917, Daisy Elliott was born in Filbert, WV.

Like many, she then moved to Detroit during the Great Migration, a period between 1914 and 1950 when South African Americans moved to Motor City in search of better employment and housing opportunities.

Elliott was an elected member of the Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1961 and 1962, a 144-member body that revised the state governing document for the first time since 1908.

Marguerite Elliott | Ken Coleman Photo Collection

In December 1961, Elliott with Lillian Hatcher and Coleman A. Young submitted Proposition 1522 and 1523 to their colleagues at the Michigan Constitutional Convention, according to the late Sidney Fine, author of “Expanding the Frontiers of Civil Rights: Michigan, 1948-1968″.

Proposal 1522 provided for a Civil Rights Commission with “enforcement powers to eliminate discrimination and segregation based on race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry in employment, housing, education, public housing and other rights, privileges or immunities as guaranteed by this Constitution.

Proposal 1523 provided for the manner in which the commission should be constituted and the procedures which it should follow in the exercise of its authority. Both proposals were then passed by convention members, approved by state voters on April 1, 1963, and became a significant body of provisions included in the Michigan Constitution.

The graduate of the Detroit Institute of Commerce then served in the Michigan House of Representatives from 1963 to 1978, and then from 1981 to 1982.

She is best known for her co-sponsorship of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976. She partnered with Mel Larsen, a Republican from Oakland County, in this effort. The measure prohibited statewide discrimination in employment, housing and public housing based on religion, race, national origin, age, sex and other factors.

After being convicted of driving a stolen Cadillac she had purchased, Elliott served a 60-day sentence in the Ingham County Jail in 1985. She argued that she did not know the car had was stolen when she bought it and suggested that “racial and political motives” were involved.

“The people in the district know what this is about,” Elliott said in 1982. “They know I wouldn’t do anything to embarrass or discredit me… all I want is justice.

Elliott passed away on December 22, 2015, at the age of 98.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announcement in 2020 that the Lewis Cass building in Lansing would be renamed in honor of Elliott and Larsen.

“Going forward, we must continue to honor those who worked to build a stronger Michigan for everyone, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity, ”Whitmer said at the time. “Of course, our work to expand civil rights in Michigan is not over. It’s time for the legislature to extend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect members of the LGBTQ + community and make Michigan a state where more people want to settle to seize the opportunity.

Badriyyah Sabree, Elliott’s granddaughter, applauded Whitmer’s action. “We hope the citizens of this great state will join us in honoring Daisy by continuing the fight for justice and fairness until justice and fairness are a reality for all,” said Sabree.