A recently amended proposed ordinance by the City Council seeks to rename 17 miles of Lake Shore Drive after Jean Baptiste DuSable, the city’s first permanent non-Indigenous Settler. If renamed, a part of Lake Shore Drive will be called “Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive. The strip of Lake Shore Drive renamed would stretch from Hollywood Boulevard to 67th Street. It would be the second street renamed in the city of Chicago. Journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells Drive was the city’s first street renamed. Ida B. Wells Drive stretches from Grant Park to Eisenhower Expressway.
18th Ward Alderman, David Moore, and other Chicago City Council members introduced the ordinance in 2019. Members of the Black Heroes Matter effort and others strongly encourage the alderman to act with urgency.
“This should have happened when then Ald. Toni Preckwinkle introduced it. It was something that should have happened even before she did it. in terms of the recognition of a founder of Chicago, it’s surprising nothing of this magnitude hasn’t been done for him.” Ald. Moore told Chicago Tonight. Ald. Howard Brookins, chairman of the Transportation Committee, agreed to vote on the issue in the spring.
Changing Lake Shore Drive’s name would mean updating city maps. That includes power geolocation services and databases maintained by the city’s police, fire, and emergency communication departments. Biagi said street signs and directional placards at CTA and Metra stations would also require updating.
Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable was born in St. Marc, St. Domingue, around 1745 to a French father and an enslaved African mother. DuSable went with his father to France after the murder of his mother. Around 1770, DuSable and his wife, a Potawatomie, moved to Eschecagou, which is pronounced Chicago. He built a trading post, smokehouse, mill, henhouse, dairy and sold flour, pork, and bread on the Chicago River’s north bank.
In the 1800s, DuSable sold his estate and moved to Peoria, IL, then finally to St. Charles, MO, where he died on August 28, 1818. He is buried at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Cemetery, Saint Charles, MO.
The City of Chicago previously honored DuSable, the founder of Chicago with a bridge, school, park, marker, and bust. Writer and artist Margaret Burroughs founded the DuSable Museum of African American History in 1961.
“The time is now, the time is right to rename Lake Shore Drive after DuSable,” says Ald. Moore.
Tammy Gibson is a travel historian, author, and writer. Find her at www.sankofatravelher.com or on Social Media @SankofaTravelHer.