|Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable|
Not much is known about DuSable's early life. There are many stories out there, including one that has him being the son of a pirate and a freed slave. Others have him traveling here from Louisiana, some from further east. The only thing agreed upon is that he was of African descent.
There is documented proof that he operated a trading post here and was a successful businessman. Surviving documents such as explorers' journals, bills of lading, etc. all reference dealings with DuSable. He was considered invaluable when dealing with the Pottowattamies here. When he sold his property in 1800 to a man named Jean La Lime, the deed included a house, two barns, a mill, a poultry house, a dairy and smokehouse. He then moved to St. Charles, Missouri where he died in 1818.
For a long time, Chicago's leaders refused to acknowledge DuSable as the first resident, instead preferring to honor white men only like John Kinzie and considered the 1803 Fort Dearborn as the first permanent residency in the city. However, during the 1933-34 Century of Progress World's Fair, a replica of DuSable's homestead was created and acknowledged as "one of the first residents." That same year (1934) DuSable High School opened in the Bronzeville neighborhood. In 1965 Pioneer Court opened on the site of DuSable's homestead and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. A bronze bust of DuSable was installed in 2009 and the Michigan Avenue Bridge has been renamed the DuSable Bridge. He also has a museum that bears his name as the DuSable Museum of African American History opened in 1968.
What do you think of ol Jean Baptiste? Interesting the number of people in history not often acknowledged because they didn't fit a certain mold or idea.
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