It was a great day for Chicagoans on the Magnificent Mile as city officials, dignitaries, Haitian Americans and Chicagoans all rejoiced in celebration at the historical unveiling and dedication of a bronze bust of the founder of Chicago, Jean Baptise Pointe DuSable. Flags were waved, songs were sung, speeches were given and tears flowed, as the bust of DuSable was unveiled to a cheering crowd on Saturday, October 17, 2009.
The bust is located on the Michigan Avenue bridge just north of the Tribune Tower. This site has been noted by some historians as the area that the fur trapper and trader, DuSable first settled and built his home in Chicago.
“The first known non-indigenous permanent settler in Chicago,
Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, who was a man of mixed African and European heritage born in Saint-Domingue (modern day Haiti), arrived in the 1770s, married a Potawatomi woman, and founded the area’s first trading post.” Source -Wikipedia on Chicago.
Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (before 1745? St. Marc, Saint-Domingue
(now Haiti) - August 28, 1818, St. Charles, Mo.), popularly known as "The Father of Chicago", was a Haitian colonist in North America of mixed French and African ancestry. Du Sable was simultaneously the first known nonindigenous settler and the first African-American/Afro-Caribbean)] in the area which is now Chicago, Illinois, in recognition whereof he was declared
the Founder of Chicago by the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago on October 26, 1968. -Source Wikipedia
Mr. Lesley Benodin, a Haitian-American who has lived in Chicago for the past forty years, donated the bust as a gift of public art to the City of Chicago. Mr. Benodin’s efforts were aided with the logistical assistance of a group of Haitian business and civic-minded individuals including Mr. Harry Fouche of Chicago and Ms. Aliette Marcelin of Evanston.
The groups’ mission was to offer and to provide the City of Chicago with a monument honoring Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable in recognition of DuSable as the first successful businessman in Chicago, to celebrate business here in Chicago and as another expression of the presence of the Haitian-American community here in the city.
Prior to this bust, the most well-known commemoration of DuSable is the DuSable Museum chartered in 1961 by Dr. Margaret Burroughs.
The DuSable Museum of African American History is the first and oldest museum dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and a
rt. It was founded in 1961 by Dr. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (Margaret Goss Burroughs), her husband Charles Burroughs, Gerard Lew, and others.
Dr. Taylor-Burroughs and other founders established the museum to celebrate black culture, then overlooked by most museums and academic establishments. It is located at 740 E. 56th Place at the corner of Cottage Grove Avenue on the South Side of Chicago in the Washington Park community area.
The DuSable Museum is the oldest and largest caretaker of black American culture in the United States. Over its long history, it has expanded as necessary to reflect the increased interest in black culture.
The museum was originally located on the ground floor of the Burroughs' home at 3806 S. Michigan Avenue.
In 1968, the museum was renamed for Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, a Haitian fur trader and the first non-Native-American permanent settler in Chicago. During the 1960s, the museum and South Side Community Art Center, which was located across the street, founded by Taylor-Burroughs and dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt, formed an African American cultural corridor.-Source Wikipedia
The day was of special significance to the eighty-nine year old, Bessie Neal, former president of The DuSable League.
Mrs. Neal and the DuSable League (a group of former Chicago teachers formerly known as the DuSable Memorial Society) have worked tirelessly for many decades advocating for the formal recognition of DuSable as the founder of Chicago and for a statue to be placed in his honor in Chicago.
The day was equally as poignant for Haroon Rashid, president of the Friends of DuSable, a diverse, multiracial group that advocates for the legacy of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable in the State of Illinois.
Rashid stated that he was he was particularly proud to see that the language on the bust that referred to DuSable as the founder of Chicago because in 2006, the Friends of DuSable group and the Chicago Commission on Human Relations African Advisory Council co-produced an ordinance that recognized DuSable as the founder of the city of Chicago.
The ordinance is called The DuSable Commemoration Ordinance.
Currently, Friends of DuSable has been working with city officials, aldermen and a variety of multiracial groups including the French Consulate, the Haitian Consulate, various African American groups, Native-American groups, the DuSable museum and Friends of the Parks to create a commemorative park and DuSable Welcome Center and River Museum.
This group has celebrated the Chicago’s birthday, annually on March 4 at the Chicago History museum and other venues with multicultural activities and programs to honor the city and DuSable.
At the unveiling, Mr. Rashid also stated, “We are all grateful to Alderman Brendan Reilly and his civic leadership and support for his bid to pass through City Council a resolution renaming the Michigan Avenue Bridge to the Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable Bridge. It is an initiative deserving of support.”
The bronze bust of DuSable was created by artist, Erik Blome.
The City has accepted the art gift through the Department of Cultural Affairs.
All Photos by Aki Antonia c2009. All Rights Reserved.