City to install signs renaming Outer Lake Shore Drive in honor of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable

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On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot joined politicians and community leaders in celebrating something she’s desperately tried to stop: renaming Chicago’s most iconic and scenic drive Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

They gathered at Buckingham Fountain to start the installation of 12 large road signs – some about 4 feet by 6 feet, others 8 feet by 4 feet – bearing the full name. Over 80 smaller road signs simply say “DuSable Lake Shore Drive”.

Lightfoot said the cost of $ 500,000 was worth it to honor a man who has been “forgotten in the annals” of Chicago history.

“We had to find a way to honor our founder,” said Lightfoot.

“In the long process it took to get to this point, we took a lot of steps, a lot of travel. We have learned a lot about each other, about our history. But what we also learned is how to come together. We took steps in each other’s direction to get to this important place.

The mayor credited Ald. David Moore (17th) for “fiercely carrying” the crusade forward and Ald. Sophia King (4th) for joining him.

Ald. David Moore and Mayor Lori Lightfoot hoisted the DuSable Lake Shore Drive signage on Thursday at the Buckingham Fountain during the official unveiling of the signs that will be installed along renowned Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

King was magnanimous in return.

“Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your leadership here. We wouldn’t be here without you either, ”she said.

The black man of Haitian descent who was Chicago’s first non-Indigenous settler finally got the honor, thanks to a compromise again and again approved by a divided city council on June 25.

Three Hispanic aldermen joined 12 white aldermen to vote against the compromise.

Moore said he felt proud whenever he heard a traffic reporter on radio or television say DuSable’s name.

“It’s not only good, but it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to know that the founder of this city, who established the first trading post, which is the foundation of the Mecca of what Chicago businesses are today, is getting the recognition he deserves ”, Moore said Thursday.

“When they say ‘Illinois the home of Ronald Reagan’, when they say ‘Illinois, the land of Lincoln’, it all matters. He encourages people to hope. As we walk down DuSable Drive it is a hope, unity and empowerment of people.

After overcoming some resistance in Chicago City Council, Ald.  Sophia King (4th) was able to celebrate the name change of Lake Shore Drive.

After overcoming some resistance in Chicago City Council, Ald. Sophia King (4th) was able to celebrate the name change of Lake Shore Drive.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Lightfoot has tried forcefully to stop the name change on the grounds that it would upset business owners and residents of skyscrapers, confuse first responders, and make it harder to market Chicago.

She noted that the road is commemorated in movies and songs – and there is value in the fact that “Lake Shore Drive” is known around the world.

At one point, Moore accused the mayor’s office of trying to block the ordinance with an alternative he sees as having “racial overtones” – renaming the Dan Ryan Freeway in DuSable’s honor for “the keep on the south side ”.

Lightfoot also made an offer it still intends to honor: a $ 40 million plan to complete DuSable Park, create an exhibit featuring statues and murals honoring DuSable in the “busiest part.” From downtown Riverwalk and rename the entire Riverwalk in honor of DuSable.

When neither of the two offers was accepted, the Allied mayors saved more time. They encouraged Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) to join Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) using a parliamentary maneuver at a council meeting in May to delay a vote on the name change.

A bust of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable stands along Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

A bust of DuSable stands along Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Neil Steinberg / Sun-Times

It was only after it was clear that Moore and King still had the voices they needed that the mayor’s forces finally came up with the hybrid, keeping Lake Shore Drive in the name but giving DuSable the top spot. .

“It’s something that shouldn’t have been that difficult. Other cities recognize their founders in very different ways. Cleveland is named after Cleveland. Cadillac is very much in the spotlight in Detroit. And DuSable is our founder and must be honored. Even the person who bought DuSable’s house – Kinzie – had a street named after him, ”King said on the day the order was approved.

“There are and have been racial overtones and resistance to having meaningful recognition for our founder, who happens to be black and of Haitian descent. It is both conscious and unconscious.

When he was charged, Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) resigned under pressure from Lightfoot as chairman of the Board’s committee on contract oversight and fairness, Moore was ignored even though he is vice chairman.

Moore protested at the time, but on Thursday he told the Sun-Times he understood what had happened.

“Whether it’s Daley or Rahm, the mayors want people out there who will push their agenda forward. And I’m a person who pushed people’s agenda, ”he said.

Lightfoot noted that Brooklyn, New York, unveiled its own DuSable street sign on Friday.

“But since he founded our city, we have to be the first. … We beat them in the fist. [New York is] a day late and a dollar short, ”said the mayor.

Traffic on Lake Shore Drive on Friday, June 25, 2021 - the day Chicago City Council voted to rename the Causeway Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive, in honor of the black man who was the first non-settler native to the region.

Traffic on Lake Shore Drive Friday, June 25 – the day Chicago City Council voted to rename the Causeway Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable Lake Shore Drive, in honor of the black man who was the first non-Indigenous settler of the region.
Tyler LaRiviere / Sun-Times

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