Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, a free black man who settled in Chicago in 1779, will be officially recognized as the city’s founder under a measure approved last Tuesday by a Chicago City Council committee.
Historians have long considered DuSable to be the first permanent non-Native
American settler in the area, but there was never any official commemoration of his role as Chicago’s founder.
“We recognize belatedly, but nevertheless, that Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable – a man of color – founded the first non-native settlement that later became known as the City of Chicago,” said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) a sponsor of the ordinance. “We want it permanently immortalized in the Municipal Code and in the history books that go on for the next 200 generations.”
DuSable, born a free black man in Haiti around 1745, eventually built a cabin along the north bank of the Chicago River, near the present-day site of the Tribune Tower.
His nuptials in 1788 were the first recorded marriage in what was then just an outpost. Among many other milestones associated with him was his granddaughter’s birth in 1796, the first recorded birth in the Chicago area.
The ordinance amends the Municipal Code of Chicago to officially add DuSable as the city’s founder. It also calls on other city agencies, such as the Board of Education, to promote DuSable’s achievements. It was passed by the full City Council last week.
There are several Chicago institutions honoring DuSable, including the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park, DuSable Harbor along the lakefront in Grant Park, and DuSable High School on the South Side. A 1993 proposal to rename South Lake Shore Drive after DuSable failed to win City Council approval.
“History is what it is, whether you like it or not, whether it’s good or bad,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), another sponsor of the ordinance. “I think it’s long overdue, but I’m glad to see us taking this action now.”