Local political leaders in favor of a statue of former Mayor Coleman A. Young show their support during a Monday, January 31 press conference at the Coleman A. Young building.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Crenshaw
Former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young was iconic as Detroit’s first Black mayor. His legacy is present throughout the city, inspiring local leaders to propose erecting a statue in his honor on Capitol Hill.
Local political leaders and lawmakers, including Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) and Detroit City Councilman At-Large Coleman Young II (among other political leaders), spoke of Young’s great works during a morning press conference at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
Hollier, among others, spoke on the plans for introducing a resolution at the State Senate to remove the Lewis Cass statue located in National Statuary Hall Collection in Lansing and replace it with Young, who was the city’s mayor for 20 years.
“We know that representation matters. Coleman Young exemplified black and Detroit excellence,” said Hollier in a press release. “Young was a believer in equality and stopping segregation. His positive impact on the City of Detroit and history are worthy of being honored in the U.S. Capitol.”
The statue would honor Young’s important achievements in the restoration of the city of Detroit while championing the civil rights of Detroiters.
“The greatest thing a man can do with his life is to have it out last him. My father was the first African American mayor of Detroit and the longest serving in the city’s history,” Young II said. “He set a golden standard that we all try to live up to. To have a statue of him among other great leaders of our country immortalized in Washington, D.C. is humbling.”
Coleman A. Young was an elected member of the Michigan Constitutional Convention from 1961 to 1962 and helped lead an effort to create the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. He was a member of the Michigan Senate from 1965 – 1973 and was Detroit’s first Black mayor, serving from 1974 -1994. Young fought to amplify the voice of Detroiters and demanded that Detroit receive the proper recognition as the centerpiece for the Michigan economy. He died in 1997 and age 79.
The United States Congress authorized the National Statuary Hall Collection in 1864 to allow each state to provide two statues of notable citizens for permanent display in the United States Capitol.
The Michigan Legislature, under Republican control, must approve any change, Hollier said during the press conference.
An image of former President Gerald Ford is another statue at the Capitol.
Hollier doesn’t want Cass to represent Michigan in Statuary Hall, where two figures represent each state. He said he has the support of all Democrats in the state Senate to choose instead Young, who was Detroit mayor for 20 years. He died in 1997.
While standing under an oversized picture of Young at the podium, Young II spoke candidly to the press more in-depth about his thoughts on the proposed statue.
“As proud, as humble, as honored as I am to see my father as a statue … I’m also filled with sadness today. Not because of him being honored, but because as his son I miss him,” Young II said, adding that while he grew up with a present and loving father, being raised by him wasn’t easy. “There were times as a kid I didn’t understand what (he was) doing.”
Young II added that he now understands what he was doing as an adult.
“That was the cost of his legacy,” Young said. “That is the cost of building this great metropolis.”
Young added that his father “sacrificed his life” for the city and more.
“So, we honor this,” he said of the statue. “It’s a representation of sacrifice. This means more to me than political greatness.”