by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable is commonly recognized as the “Founder of Chicago,” but some aldermen believe he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, and they want to change that by renaming iconic Lake Shore Drive in his honor.
Du Sable is described by historians as the father of Chicago, an African-American fur trader who married a Native-American woman and fostered racial harmony.
He was also the first person with the vision to see Chicago as the nation’s transportation crossroads.
Du Sable – born to a French father and African slave mother – built the first home on the Chicago River, roughly where the Marina Towers stand today.
While the Michigan Avenue bridge and a downtown harbor near the site of the Du Sable settlement already bear his name – in addition to the Du Sable Museum of African American History in Washington Park – Ald. David Moore (17th) said it’s a discredit to Du Sable that a major city street isn’t named after him as well.
“A person that set up shop along the river and everything, and we don’t have a major street named after him?” Moore said. “I think this is a historical opportunity, and it’s a great opportunity for the city of Chicago.”
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Moore and Ald. Sophia King (4th) introduced proposed ordinance to rename the entire length of Lake Shore Drive as “Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Drive.” Nine other aldermen have signed on as co-sponsors.
Moore said the inspiration to name Lake Shore Drive after du Sable came to him after taking a boat tour of the city.
“They began to name everything. They talked about everybody and did not mention DuSable once as the founder of Chicago,” Moore said. “I talked to that tour guide. I said next time you do a tour, you cannot leave out Jean Baptiste DuSable.”
Last year, the City Council voted to rename a stretch of Congress Parkway after civil rights activist and women’s suffragist Ida B. Wells. Moore said he hopes that opens the door to renaming Lake Shore Drive after another African American icon.
“[Wells] was the first African American, period, with a name in the downtown area. Now [Du Sable] would be the first African American man, but also the founder. That shouldn’t even be a fight,” Moore said.
Moore said he and King are still lining up support for the ordinance, and hope to pass the ordinance by January or February. If that happens, he said the first “Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Drive” signs could go up by next summer.