Q: Who was the first black legislator in Michigan?
A: William Ferguson, who served in the state House of Representatives from 1893 to 1895. Ferguson was born in 1857 to the family of one of the state’s first black doctors. Ferguson had successful careers in both printing and real estate before he became a lawyer. In 1889, when he was expelled from Gies’ European Hotel Restaurant for refusing to eat in the colored section, he filed suit. Defeated in lower court, he appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. In Ferguson v. Gies (1890), the court ruled that separation by race in public places was illegal. The ruling helped propel Ferguson to a term in the state House. He died in 1910.