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Michigan civil rights pioneer Daisy Elliott dies at 98

State Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
State Capitol Building, Lansing, MI

The woman who wrote and championed Michigan’s groundbreaking Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act has died.

Daisy Elliott was a state representative from Detroit for nearly two decades.

Fellow lawmakers remembered her as a quiet, gracious woman who fiercely opposed discrimination of any kind.

Her years-long campaign for state-level civil rights protections finally paid off in 1977, when the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act became law with bipartisan support. It declared:

"The opportunity to obtain employment, housing and other real estate, and the full and equal utilization of public accommodations, public service, and educational facilities without discrimination because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status as prohibited by this act is hereby recognized and declared to be a civil right."

The law broadened the scope of the existing civil rights laws, and added sex-based protections for the first time.

Elliott also co-wrote Michigan’s 1963 constitution, which created the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

That Commission’s current chair, Arthur Horwitz, called her “one of the greatest civil rights leaders this state has ever produced.”

According to her family, Elliott died Tuesday at age 98.

In a statement, her granddaughter Badriyyah Sabree said: "For those who want to honor our beloved Daisy, please honor her example as a champion of the people and with a commitment to the dignity and unique value of every human being. Help erase the ills of our society that maintain the false realities of racial inferiority and/or superiority."

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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