A lesson in Chicago Black History (a few weeks early): Did you know DuSable was Haitian?

January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson showed out with his theory on Haiti this week, not even 24 hours after the horrific earthquake. He said on television that Haiti made a "deal with the devil" when they defeated the French colonialists. Therefore, that deal is the cause of their troubles. Apparently, defeating slave owners is doing the devil's work. I don't want to spend too much time railing against ignorance today. My pal Natalie H. does a fine job over at the root. Amid the tragic earthquake, however, there seems to be a lot of ignorance about the Caribbean nation. (Louisiana Purchase, anyone? And I've always loved the name Toussaint L'ouverture.) A little closer to home in Chicago, we have our own Haitian roots. Introducing ... Jean Baptist Point DuSable. The founder of Chicago was a Haitian fur trader who settled here in the 1700s. I shouldn't be so surprised that many Chicagoans don't know this fact. After all, there's no big, prominent statue of him in Grant Park. No major streets are named after him. No local holiday. The biggest institution bearing his name is the black history museum. There's also a high school on the South Side named after him. Plus a harbor. Back in 1990s, some Chicago alderman tried renaming the scenic Lake Shore Drive after DuSable. It quickly busted. No surprise.
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