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Jean Baptiste Point du Sable
Black and white sketch of the bust of a man.  His features are darkly shaded.  He has dark curly hair and a goatee.
There are no known portraits of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable made during his lifetime. This depiction is taken from A.T. Andreas' book History of Chicago (1884).
Born 1740s?
Died August 28, 1818(1818-08-28)
Occupation Trader
Known for "Founder of Chicago"
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable signature

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (or Point de Sable, Point au Sable, Point Sable, Pointe DuSable) (before 1750 – August 28, 1818) is regarded as the first permanent resident of what later became Chicago, Illinois, and is recognized as the "Founder of Chicago". A school, museum, harbor, park, and bridge have been named in his honor. The site where he settled near the mouth of the Chicago River around the 1780s is identified as a National Historic Landmark, now located in Pioneer Court.


Point du Sable was of African descent, traditionally stated to be Haitian, from the French colony of Saint-Domingue but little else is known of his life prior to the 1770s. During his career, the areas where he settled and traded around the Great Lakes and in the Illinois Country changed hands several times among France, Britain, Spain and the new United States.

Described as handsome and well educated, Point du Sable married a Native American woman, Kitiwaha, and they had two children. In 1779, during the American Revolutionary War, he was living on the site of present-day Michigan City, Indiana, when he was arrested by the British military on suspicion of being an American sympathizer. In the early 1780s he worked for the British lieutenant-governor of Michilimackinac on an estate at what is now the city of St. Clair, Michigan.

Point du Sable is first recorded as living at the mouth of the Chicago River in a trader's journal of early 1790, having settled there sometime earlier. He established an extensive and prosperous trading settlement in what would become the city of Chicago. He sold his Chicago River property in 1800 and moved to St. Charles, now in Missouri, where he was licensed to run a Missouri River ferry. Point du Sable's successful role in developing the Chicago River settlement was little recognized until the mid-20th century. Point du Sable died on August 18, 1818 in St. Charles, Missouri.

Legacy and honors

Founder of Chicago

The French came to the North American mid-continent region in the 17th century. Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, during their 1673 Mississippi Valley expedition, though probably not the first Europeans to visit the area, are the first in the written record to have crossed the Chicago Portage and traveled along the Chicago River. Over the following years visits continued, and occasional intermittent posts were established, including those by René LaSalle, Henri Tonti, Pierre Liette and the four-year Mission of the Guardian Angel. Point du Sable 1780s establishment is recognized as the first settlement that continued on and ultimately grew to become the city of Chicago. He is therefore widely regarded as the first permanent resident of Chicago and has been given the appellation "Founder of Chicago".


By the 1850s, historians of Chicago recognized Point du Sable as the city's earliest non-native permanent resident. For a long time the city did not honor him in the same manner as other pioneers. Point du Sable was generally forgotten in the 19th century and instead the Scots-Irish trader John Kinzie, who had bought his property, was often credited for the settlement. A plaque was erected by the city in 1913 at the corner of Kinzie and Pine Streets to commemorate the Kinzie homestead. In the planning stages of the 1933–1934 Century of Progress International Exposition, several African-American groups campaigned for Point du Sable to be honored at the fair. At the time, few Chicagoans had even heard of Point du Sable, and the fair's organizers presented the 1803 construction of Fort Dearborn as the city's historical beginning. The campaign was successful, and a replica of Point du Sable's cabin was presented as part of the "background of the history of Chicago".

In 1965 a plaza called Pioneer Court was built on the site of Point du Sable's homestead as part of the construction of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of America building. The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite was designated as a National Historic Landmark on 11 May 1976, as a site deemed to have "exceptional value to the nation". Pioneer Court is located at what is now 401 N. Michigan Avenue in the Michigan–Wacker Historic District. At this site in 2009 the City of Chicago and a private donor, Haitian-born, Lesly Benodin, erected a large bronze bust of Point du Sable by Chicago-born sculptor Erik Blome. In October 2010 the Michigan Avenue Bridge was renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Point du Sable. Previously, a small street named De Saible Street had been named after him. In 2021, Lake Shore Drive in Chicago was renamed in Point du Sable's honor.

The DuSable Museum
The DuSable Museum in Washington Park

Several institutions have been named in honor of Point du Sable. DuSable High School opened in Bronzeville, Chicago in 1934. The DuSable campus today houses the Daniel Hale Williams Prep School of Medicine, and the Bronzeville Scholastic Institute. Margaret Taylor-Burroughs, a prominent African-American artist and writer, taught at the school for twenty-three years. She and her husband co-founded the DuSable Museum of African American History, located on Chicago's South Side, which was renamed in honor of Point du Sable in 1968. DuSable Harbor is located in the heart of downtown Chicago at the foot of Randolph Street, and DuSable Park is a 3.24-acre (1.31 ha) urban park in Chicago currently awaiting redevelopment. The project was originally announced in 1987 by Mayor Harold Washington. A park is also named after du Sable in St Charles, his other notable place of residence. The US Postal Service has also honored Point du Sable with the issue of a Black Heritage Series 22-cent postage stamp on 20 February 1987.

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