CHICAGO — The city’s iconic Lake Shore Drive has a new name after the city council voted Friday to call it Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive to honor Chicago’s first non-Native settler.
The name change affects 17 miles off Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue to East 67th Street. It comes after weeks of controversy and contentious back and forth between Mayor Lori Lightfoot – who opposed the name change – and aldermen who lobbied for the name to be a way of honoring DuSable.
Aldus. Sophia King (4th), speaking in favor of the name change just before the deciding vote, said “names have an important meaning”.
“There was an argument that Lake Shore Drive shouldn’t be changed because it’s so iconic,” she said. “I support just the opposite, let’s change it because it’s so iconic.”
King linked the name change to the previous name change of Martin Luther King Drive, which did not cover the entire city.
“What we choose to celebrate or not celebrate tells a story and helps shape our consciousness,” she said. “That we choose to honor a great man whose legacy was marginalized because he was black. I hope our story is that we choose a name that speaks of racial healing and reckoning to honor our founder, who happens to be black and Haitian. So I ask, what’s in a name? History, education, pride, healing, racial reckoning, and hopefully unity.
Aldus. David Moore (17th) and a group called Black Heroes Matter have been pushing to rename Causeway Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive since 2019, and they appeared to have the votes to do so if the proposal were to be voted on at the council meeting of Wednesday. But the meeting was abruptly adjourned amid a cloud of confusion over the rules of procedure.
The aldermen then agreed to a compromise plan to group the names together and call St Jean Baptiste DuSable Lake Shore Drive – but only if the vote was called at Friday’s meeting.
Thirty-three aldermen voted in favor of the change and 15 voted against. Moore was moved to tears while speaking with reporters after the vote.
The name change comes as people look for ways to honor Sable-black historical figures.
But critics of the change said residents either didn’t want to change their address or were worried about getting rid of the iconic ‘Lake Shore Drive’ name. Some said aldermen should focus on other issues, like Chicago’s recovery from the pandemic or the surge in shootings and murders in the city.
King addressed this criticism in his speech.
“So why are we spending so much time on this issue, when we have bigger fish to fry: gun violence, COVID recovery, true racial disparity?” she said. “We can chew gum and walk. It’s neither, but really, names are important.
Lightfoot proposed other ways to honor du Sable, including building DuSable Park, hosting a festival in his honor, and naming the Riverwalk for him. There was also a push to rename Millennium Park for Sable, a decision that Ald. Brian Hopkins (1st) argued that it was a more prestigious honor.
Renaming Millennium Park “is much more compelling and much more appealing” than renaming the drive, he said.
Aldus. Brendan Reilly also spoke out against the name change. Reilly said his constituents “prefer to keep the Lake Shore Drive name,” and the city has already honored du Sable in a number of ways.
Aldus. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) said opposition to the name change, including from inside the city council, showed there was work to be done to tackle “white supremacy”.
“The only controversial thing about renaming Lake Shore Drive is how long it took,” he said.
After leading the fight since the fall of 2019, Moore made it short Friday, asking his colleagues to “do the right thing.”
Those who voted no for the change were: Alds. Brian Hopkins (2nd), Marty Quinn (13th), Matt O’Shea (19th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Felix Cardona (31st), Nick Sposato (38th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Anthony Napolitano (41st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th), Jim Gardiner (45th), James Cappleman (46th) and Debra Silverstein (50th)
Subscribe to Block Club Chicagoan independent, 501(c)(3), newsroom run by reporters.
Every penny we make goes to Chicago neighborhood funds. Already subscribed ? Click on here to support Block Club with a tax deductible donation.
Listen to “It’s Alright: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: