Chicago, Illinois is valuable to America, and is a part of the leading historic cities (through good and bad times) that the rest of America pays homage to. Chicago’s history has played such an important role in America’s history that its worth can’t be tarnished. Today, Chicago is listed as an alpha+ global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and ranks seventh in the world in the 2012 Global Cities Index. Like its neighbor Detroit (30 minutes flying distance), Chicago shares a rich history of French explorers, missionaries, fur traders and the Potawatomi Indians. During the 1700s there were three groups of Potawatomi: the Detroit Potawatomi were in southeast Michigan; Prairie Potawatomi were in northern Illinois; St. Joseph Potawatomi were in southwest Michigan. By 1800 the names and locations of these three divisions had changed to: the Potawatomi of the woods were in southern Michigan and northern Indiana; Forest Potawatomi were in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan; Potawatomi of the Prairie were in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Their villages, along with their history in Canada carry a puissant meaning as well.
Unlike Detroit (who’s founder was a French White explorer), Chicago was discovered and founded by a Black pioneer by the name of Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable (a French Black pioneer). His other names were Point Sable, Point au Sable, Point De Sable, and Pointe DuSable. Point au Sable is regarded as the first permanent resident of Chicago (formerly the settlement named Eschikagou on the north bank of the Chicago River), but wasn’t officially recognized as Chicago’s founder until 1968. Of course there’s no known clear record of Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable’s life prior to the 1770s; place of birth; birth year; and there’s little information on his parents. But what is clear is that Pointe au Sable was a Black pioneer, trader, and founder of the settlement that later became the city of Chicago. He was from St. Marc, Sainte-Domingue (now Haiti). His French father had moved there and married a Black woman who was a Black African Slave, but Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable is believed to have been a free-born. In the 1770s he went to the Great Lakes area of North America, settling on the shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Chicago River, along with his Potawatomi wife, Kittihawa (Catherine). His passionate defiance to the monarch lead to his arrest in 1779 by the British, who took him to Fort Mackinac. It was at Fort Mackinac where he successfully managed a trading post named the Pinery on the St. Clair River in present-day Michigan, but he eventually returned to Chicago. By 1790 he established a vital link in the region’s fur and grain trade. In 1800 he sold everything and moved to Missouri, where he continued as being a trader and farmer until his death. Point au Sable passed away on August 28, 1818 in St. Charles, Missouri. But his 20 year residence on the beautiful and significant shores of Lake Michigan had established his title as “Father of Chicago.” To learn more about the “Father of Chicago” (Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable) click here to read.
Click to view 1940s Black Chicagoans Photos and read about them.