A Black Man Founded the City of Chicago

Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, Black man who founded Chicago

The founder of the city of Chicago was Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable. He was born to a white Frenchman and an African-born Black woman in Saint-Domingue, Haiti (a French colony at the time) during the Haitian Revolution. At some point he settled in the part of North America that is now known as the city of Chicago, and was described in historical documents as "a handsome negro."
In the late 1700's, Jean-Baptiste was the first person to establish an extensive and prosperous trading settlement in what would become the city of Chicago. Historic documents confirm that his property was right at the mouth of the Chicago River.

Many people, however, believe that John Kinzie (a white trader) and his family were the first to settle in the area that is now known as Chicago, and it is true that the Kinzie family were Chicago's first "permanent" European settlers. But the truth is that the Kinzie family purchased their property from a French trader who had purchased it from Jean-Baptiste.

He died in August 1818, and because he was a Black man, many people tried to white wash the story of Chicago's founding. But in 1912, after the Great Migration, a plaque commemorating Jean-Baptiste appeared in downtown Chicago on the site of his former home.

Later in 1913, a white historian named Dr. Milo Milton Quaife also recognized Jean-Baptiste as the founder of Chicago. And as the years went by, more and more Black notables such as Carter G. Woodson and Langston Hughes began to include Jean-Baptiste in their writings as "the brownskin pioneer who founded the Windy City."

Now, most African Americans who are from the Chicago are well aware of their city's founder, and fight to keep his story alive. In fact, in 2009, a bronze bust of Jean-Baptiste was designed and placed in Pioneer Square in Chicago along the Magnificent Mile.

There is also a popular museum in Chicago named after him called the DuSable Museum of African American History!