DuSable: Message of strength, renewal, resolve

February 1, 2010 3:35:33 PM PST
As the world helps Haiti recover from a massive earthquake, ABC7 celebrates the Haitian pioneer who founded Chicago. "We know him as the founding father of Chicago," said Charles Bethea, DuSable Museum of African American History.

The significance for those celebrating Black History Month at the museum named in his honor is that Jean Baptiste DuSable was a Haitian American.

"I just found out about DuSable today and it brings a connection to the efforts that have been done for the Haitians," said Cathrine Robinson, museum goer.

As the world watches the island nation recover from the devastating January 2009 earthquake, Chicago celebrates the colonist. DuSable is likely the son of an African native slave and an unknown French father. He was born in 1749 in Saint Dominique -- now known as Haiti. DuSable became Chicago's first permanent resident when it was not much more than wilderness. He operated the town's first fur trading post.

John Russick of the Chicago History Museum said history doesn't fully tell of DuSable's contributions.

"We came to recognize through historical documentation that he played a very significant role," said John Russick, Chicago History Museum

At the urging of Chicago's Haitian community, the city of Chicago acknowledged the success of the frontiersman -- who left Chicago in 1800 for Peoria, Illinois where he lived for another 10 years. He eventually moved to Missouri where he died in 1818. He was buried in an unmarked grave leaving few possessions behind -- except a legacy of exploration and determination some say remains timely, especially in the country DuSable once called home.

"We build cities. We can do it again. It is a message of strength, renewal and resolve," said Carol Adams, DuSable Museum African American History