The Founder of Chicago: A Black Man?

Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable was born in St.Marc, Haiti (or St. Domingue as Haiti was known then) around 1745 of a French father and a Black African Slave mother. There is a paucity of information in the historical record as pertains to DuSable’s life in Haiti prior to his migration to New Orleans around 1765. Many scholars suggest that DuSable may have had French Canadian origins. However most biographers generally agree that the majority of evidence regarding his origins leads to the conclusion that he was a mulatto from present day Haiti. 

Once in New Orleans, DuSable made the epic journey up the Mississippi River where in the mid to late 1770’s he built a home and cultivated approximately 30 acres of land in Peoria, Illinois. He maintained excellent relations with Native Americans and lived among indigenous tribes where he married Catherine, the daughter of Potawatomie Chief Pokagon in a tribal ceremony. This common law marriage was solemnized in a Catholic church in Cahokia, Illinois in 1778. Jean-Baptiste and Catherine had two children, Jean-Baptiste Jr. and Suzanne. In 1793 or 1794 Suzanne married Jean-Baptiste Peltier. Suzanne bore a daughter Eulalie in Chicago in October of 1796. Historical evidence suggests that DuSable must have settled in Chicago prior to 1779. 

Located on the north bank of the Chicago River at its junction with Lake Michigan, DuSable’s estate consisted of a modest sized home, a horse mill, a bake house, a dairy, a smokehouse, a poultry house, a workshop, a stable, and a barn. The location of this settlement was at a natural crossroad for both Native Americans and Europeans seeking access to the Mississippi River. Many explorers and pioneers had come in passing prior to this settlement however none had stayed. DuSable established the first permanent settlement in present day Chicago and lived at that site for at least twenty years. He set up a trading post which flourished supplying customers with flour, pork, and bread in exchange for cash and durable goods. DuSable had established a good reputation with trading relations as far as Detroit, Green Bay, Mackinac and St. Joseph. 

During the period of the American Revolutionary War, DuSable sided with the Americans. Historical evidence suggests that DuSable had ties to Colonel George Rogers Clark of Virginia, who was sent to Illinois and Indiana to win the territories for the Americans. To avoid attack by Captain Charles de Langlade, DuSable fled with his family and settled on the River du Chemin (near modern-day Michigan City, Indiana). In 1779, he was subsequently arrested by a British lieutenant, Thomas Bennet and sent to Mackinac.

DuSable remained in detention for the remainder of the American Revolution. However because of his good character DuSable was sent to the Pinery a trading outpost located on the St. Clair River, south of modern-day Port Huron.  The Pinery had been established by the British Lieutenant Governor Patrick Sinclair. Upon receiving news that the present manager had been mistreating the indigenous people of the area, Governor Sinclair appointed DuSable as manager where he worked for a period of three years. 

In 1784 DuSable returned to Chicago to reclaim his abandoned property and to reestablish his trading post. His business thrived and he lived in peace among Native Americans and white traders traveling through the area.  Historical accounts of white traders, British Governors and Lieutenants describe DuSable as a wealthy man of good character, sound business acumen, and with many friends.

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2 thoughts on “The Founder of Chicago: A Black Man?

  1. My Worldwide Dysfunctional Family – “I Hate Niggas!”

    Posted 7/5/08

    Hello family, and Independence Day to all who have begun to realize their independence from the opinions (negative or positive) of others. Oh yes, it is good to know that some people appreciate and respect your opinions, and it feels good to get stroked. But what about the other side of the coin. The Chinese sell Sweet & Sour Pork dish because they know that these two flavors compliment and balance each other. So it is in life, you gotta take the good and the bad in stride, and don’t take the opinions of others too seriously. Including my own. Especially my own. For instance, if you happen to be an egotistical, narcissistic, degenerate with anti-social tendencies who, in my opinion, should be castraterd and ostracized, you don’t have to be persuaded to change your lifestyle just because of my opinion. Be independent, dammit! Get down like you live. Jerk! But enough fun and games, let’s get to the real point of this writing. On July 3rd at 11:35pm I wrote in my personal journal: “The Fourth of July is raspidly approaching; the midnight hour is near. It is estimated that more than a million people will crowd Chicago’s lakefront to watch the fireworks display at Navy Pier. Champagne corks will pop, wine will flow, blunts will be lit-up, and contact highs will be had by all. . . .” But what will be the price in lives that we will have to pay for all of this “Fun”? For the first time in the “Taste of Chicago’s” 26-year history the killing has moved downtown. Three people were shot and another killed as people celebrated the 4th and feasted at the “Taste” As you might have guessed, the victims and the perpretrators were Black. Further more, Blacks have been killing and will keep on killing Blacks with impunity then march to protest Black on Black crime or go to church to pray, not for the souls of the departed nor for their executioners’ but for their own safety and security while thanking the Lord that, “I’m glad I am not like them niggas!” A visceral reaction will begin: hatred and fear will set in. The prefrontal cortex, which regulates the depth of feelings of the individual, will signal the Limbic system to adjust the feelings and behavior of the individual to respond in a predetermined manner based on the individual’s mindset, and in his heart of heart, the mindset is, “I Hate Niggas!” This will not be a conscious thought shaped and framed by words. It will be a visceral reaction of the sympathetic autonomic nervous system, the so-called ‘fight, fright, flight’ response. This system is mobilized during emergency and stress situations. It is a survival system. The logical conclusion of the stressed out dysfunctional family member will be: “Niggas are a threat to my survival. I hate Niggas.” To escape the threat of Niggas we resort to separation and isolation, race-hatred and despair. Some of us clamor for more laws, more police, more jails. But history has shown that these bandaids are no solution to the problem of crime in general and Black on Black crime in particular. Laws, police and jails don’t deter crime because most Black Criminals see it as their civic duty to oppose these institutions anyway they can. They resist coerrcion on principle that they refuse to become victims of the ‘Stockkholm Syndrone’ in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, which is how most Black criminals see other blacks who have been taken hostage by a slave-holding nation and then turned to their masters to seek a solution to their problems. Hold it! Stop it! Quit your moaning and groaning and hear me out. I’m not advocating Social Racism, Political Separitism or Criminal activism or any other kind of anti-social activities here. I’m merely attempting in my own limited way to put a face on the reality of our dysfuntional malaise as it appears to me. But then, these are my opinions, and as a I’ve said before, don’t YOU become too persuaded by MY opinions. The problem is that for too long too many of us have refused to hear the ideas, opinions and thoughts of anyone save our own. As a family, both nationally and individually we have been dysfunctional for a long time, though we have certainly made great social and economic strides in the past fourty or fifty years based upon the work of civil rights acticvist and others. But what has been the costs to the Black Family, Black Community and Black Identiy? I’ll tell you what. Where there were nuclear families based around a father and mother who willingly sacrificed to hold the family together we now have ‘nuclear waste’. Where black communities once took care of their poorer and less able brethren through the offices of the church and community-based organizartions and social services providers, we now have mega-churches with pastors so busy building their following that a repentant sinner would be hard-put to gain an audiernce with one of these Superstars Preachers. And, poor though we were, we knew that we were ‘Black’ people and we felt a sense of pride and responsibility for our communities that is absent in today’s get-rich-quick world. Our superstars no longer seem to feel an identification with the poorer Blacks amonst us. No longer comfortable with the ignorance and poverty of their poorer brethren they try to emulate their white counterparts. That’s where we are now. Indeed, it seems as if they can’t wait ot get that mega-million bucks contract so that they can get away from the Niggas. Money Will Change You! Some among you (us) will no doubt harbor a sense of unforgiving anger and righteous indignation about the assertions made in this blog. I know I would if someone stepped on my toe or challenged my right to choose to live any way that I chose to. But this ain’t about that. This is simply to point out that those same Niggas that you hate may very well be your own sisters and brothers who did no more than clamor for your attention as a child and whom you chose to ignore or worse. And now the chickens have come home to roost, and they came home as “Niggas!” Don’t you just Love ’em?

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