Jean Baptiste Point du Sable | legacy and honors

Legacy and honors

Founder of Chicago

The French came to the North American mid-continent region in the 17th century. Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, during their 1673 Mississippi Valley expedition, though probably not the first Europeans to visit the area, are the first in the written record to have crossed the Chicago Portage and traveled along the Chicago River.[57][n 5] Over the following years visits continued, and occasional intermittent posts were established, including those by René LaSalle, Henri Tonti, Pierre Liette[60][61] and the four-year Mission of the Guardian Angel.[62] Point du Sable 1780s establishment is recognized as the first settlement that continued on and ultimately grew to become the city of Chicago.[63] He is therefore widely regarded as the first permanent resident of Chicago[24][64] and has been given the appellation "Founder of Chicago".[7][65]

Memorials

[Point du Sable] is not yet honored in his own house (which Chicagoans call the "Kinzie House") or on his own land. No street bears his name and, save for the high school, he has no monument. Cadillac is honored in Detroit, Pitt in Pittsburgh, Cleveland in Cleveland—but the father of Chicago has no street or statue of stone to call his own.

Ebony, December 1963.[66]

By the 1850s, historians of Chicago recognized Point du Sable as the city's earliest non-native permanent settler.[67] For a long time the city did not honor him in the same manner as other pioneers.[66] Point du Sable was generally forgotten in the 19th century and instead the Scots-Irish trader John Kinzie, who had bought his property, was often credited for the settlement.[14] A plaque was erected by the city in 1913 at the corner of Kinzie and Pine Streets to commemorate the Kinzie homestead.[68] In the planning stages of the 1933–1934 Century of Progress International Exposition, several African-American groups campaigned for Point du Sable to be honored at the fair.[69] At the time, few Chicagoans had even heard of Point du Sable,[70] and the fair's organizers presented the 1803 construction of Fort Dearborn as the city's historical beginning.[71] The campaign was successful, and a replica of Point du Sable's cabin was presented as part of the "background of the history of Chicago".[71]

In 1965 a plaza called Pioneer Court was built on the site of Point du Sable's homestead as part of the construction of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America building.[72] The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite was designated as a National Historic Landmark on May 11, 1976,[73] as a site deemed to have "exceptional value to the nation".[74] Pioneer Court is located at what is now 401 N. Michigan Avenue in the Michigan–Wacker Historic District. At this site in 2009 the City of Chicago and a private donor erected a large bronze bust of Point du Sable by Chicago-born sculptor Erik Blome.[75] In October 2010 the Michigan Avenue Bridge was renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Point du Sable.[44] Previously, a small street named De Saible Street had been named after him.[45]

Photograph of the front of a classical-style, gray one-story building, with large front landing and steps
The DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park

Several Chicago institutions have been named in honor of Point du Sable.[13] DuSable High School opened in Bronzeville in 1934.[n 6] The DuSable campus today houses the Daniel Hale Williams Prep School of Medicine, and the Bronzeville Scholastic Institute. Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, a prominent African-American artist and writer, taught at the school for twenty-three years. She and her husband co-founded the DuSable Museum of African American History, located on Chicago's South Side, which was renamed in honor of Point du Sable in 1968.[76] DuSable Harbor is located in the heart of downtown Chicago at the foot of Randolph Street, and DuSable Park is a 3.24-acre (1.31 ha) urban park in Chicago currently awaiting redevelopment. The project was originally announced in 1987 by Mayor Harold Washington. The US Postal Service has also honored Point du Sable with the issue of a Black Heritage Series 22-cent postage stamp on February 20, 1987.[77][78]

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