Michigan Avenue Bridge becomes DuSable Bridge

October 14, 2010 10:00:00 PM PDT
The Michigan Avenue Bridge was renamed Friday in honor of Chicago's first permanent resident, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable.

For the dozen or so civic organizations that supported the renaming, Friday was a long time in coming.

A bust of DuSable already graces the plaza near the bridge, and today supporters celebrated the father of Chicago.

"This is a proud shining moment of a 10-year effort to produce something like this today," said Haroom Rashid of Friends of DuSable.

The dedication comes with the blessing of Alderman Walter Burnett, who strongly supported an ordinance to rename the bridge, which was first introduced by 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly last year.

"He knew that diversity is the strength of this city," said Burnett.

Those here say the idea was perfect given the bridge is right above the site where as a fur trader -- the son of a french pirate and haitian slave, DuSable established Chicago's first trading post in 1779.

"As a Haitan, I consider myself privileged to be part of this important moment in history," said Leslie Conde of the Consulate General of Haiti.

Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable was born in the French colony of St. Domingue. after attending Catholic school in France he travelled to the area where he eventually married a Potawatomi woman and became a high-ranking member of her tribe.

"History didn't start at this point, but it is a big part of the continuation of people coming together," said Joseph Podlasek of the American Indian Center.

As the first non-native resident to set up permanent shop in the area, DuSable is today considered by some to a visionary.

"He was a leader, he was a business leader, he was a cultural leader, a social leader, religious leader - he did everything," said Russell Lewis of the Chicago History Museum.

DuSable's influence is visible, from the DUSABLE MUSUEM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY to an OBSCURE STREET with an alternative spelling of his name - DeSaible - there is no doubt he connects Chicago's past and present.

"DuSable is really a historical figure, but represents 21st Century Chicago," said Bill Walley of Friends of DuSable.

In 1993, there were attempts to permanently rename -- Lake Shore Drive -- DuSable Drive -- but that failed.

The group now wants to name a park for DuSable. They say they have the name, but they need more money to make it happen.

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