Advance Notice: Briefs

Sen. Hollier: Remove Lewis Cass statue in D.C., give honor to Detroit’s first Black mayor

By: - January 20, 2022 5:06 pm

Lewis Cass statue in the U.S. Capitol | Susan J. Demas

State Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) told the Advance on Thursday he will introduce a resolution to remove the Lewis Cass statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection on Capitol Hill and replace it with former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young. 

“I think that it is important for us to erect statues to honor the people who need to be valued and there is no person that the case has been made for than Mayor Coleman Young, a Tuskegee Airmen, who was a leader against McCarthyism. … He was a believer in equality and stopping segregation,” said Hollier.  

Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) | Ken Coleman photo

Past practice is that the party in state power makes the decision which statues sit in National Statuary Hall, according to Hollier. The National Statuary Hall Collection was authorized by the United States Congress in 1864 to allow each state to provide two statues of notable citizens for display in the United States Capitol. 

Michigan gave its other statue, of former President Gerald Ford, in 2011, replacing one of Republican former Detroit Mayor Zachariah Chandler.         

All of Hollier’s Democratic Senate colleagues have signed on as co-sponsors. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) did not respond to a request for comment.

Cass was a former Michigan territorial governor, U.S. senator and U.S. secretary of state. He was also a slave owner and was the architect of the infamous “Trail of Tears” that forced Native Americans from southern states west of the Mississippi River so that whites could grow cotton. A Detroit high school, a Motor City street and a Michigan county are all named after him.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in June 2020 that the Lewis Cass building in Lansing would be named the Elliott-Larsen building after former state Reps. Daisy Elliott and Melvin Larsen, who sponsored the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act signed into law in 1976.

Young was a member of the Michigan Senate from 1965 to 1973. He was Detroit’s first Black mayor, serving from 1974 to 1994. He also was an elected member of the Michigan Constitutional Convention of 1961-62 and helped to lead an effort to create the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and Michigan Civil Rights Commission. 

He died in 1997 at age 79. 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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