The first permanent settler in Chicago was Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. He was born in Haiti around 1745 to a French mariner and a mother who was a slave of African descent. DuSable was educated in France and then, in the early 1770s, sailed to New Orleans. DuSable settled along the northern bank of the Chicago River near Lake Michigan ca. 1779 and developed a prosperous trading post and farm. His foresight in perceiving the importance of the site of Chicago, now one of the largest cities in the United States, was matched by his uncommon affinity with the local Native American tribes.
In Chicago, the city continues to celebrate its Haitian-born founder and father of the Windy City. The next time you are in Chicago, you must check out these landmarks that pay tribute to this iconic Haitian immigrant.
The location of the settlement of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is a national landmark in Chicago at 401 North Michigan Avenue. The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite is the location where, in the 1780s, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable located his home and trading post.
This home is generally considered to be the first permanent, non-native, residence in Chicago, Illinois. The site of Point du Sable’s home is now partially occupied by and commemorated in Pioneer Court at 401 N. Michigan Avenue in the Near North Side community area of Chicago. Du Sable’s granddaughter, Eulalie Pelletier, was the first non-native to be born in the city, in 1796.
The DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum of African American History at 740 E 56th Pl, in Chicago, is a must-visit. The museum was renamed in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable in 1968, seven years after it was founded. It is dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and art. The museum’s collection has come largely from private gifts and it has United States slavery-era relics, nineteenth- and twentieth-century artifacts, and archival materials, including the diaries of Sea Explorer Captain Harry Dean. The DuSable collection includes works from scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, sociologist St. Clair Drake, and poet Langston Hughes. The DuSable Museum is the oldest and before the founding of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the 21st century, the largest caretaker of African American culture in the United States.
The Jean Baptiste DuSable Statue
The Jean Baptiste DuSable statue is located at 401 N Michigan Avenue. This 2009 monument consists of a bronze bust of DuSable on a granite pedestal. The City of Chicago and a private donor erected the large bronze bust just north of the Chicago River. It was created by Chicago-born sculptor Erik Blome and donated to the City of Chicago by Haitian-born Lesley Benodin.
In October 2010, the Michigan Avenue Bridge was renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Point du Sable. The bascule bridge carries Michigan Avenue across the main stem of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The northern end of the bridge covers part of the Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite, which is commemorated by a National Historic plaque in Pioneer Court.
DuSable Harbor, named after the Haitian-born furrier, is located in the heart of downtown Chicago at the foot of Randolph Street. Surrounded by a towering skyline and being the only harbor with slips close to the loop, it is a very popular mooring location. There are 420 slips at DuSable with accommodations for boats 30’-60’+ in length.
DuSable High School
Jean Baptiste Point DuSable High School was a public 4-year high school located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Constructed between 1931–34, DuSable High School opened in February 1935. Since 2005, the school building serves as home to two smaller schools; the Bronzeville Scholastic Institute and the Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine. Both of the schools use the DuSable name in an athletics context. The school building was designated a Chicago Landmark on May 1, 2013.