CHICAGO — A longstanding plan to rename Lake Shore Drive after Chicago’s first permanent non-Native settler was given new life this week — only to be delayed again Thursday afternoon.
An ordinance to rename the iconic Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable boardwalk, after the black explorer who established a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River in the late 1700s, was added late on the agenda of the Transportation and Highways Committee. , but the item was postponed shortly after the meeting began.
For months, members of the Black Heroes Matter group have spoken at city council meetings urging aldermen to pass the ordinance, first introduced by Ald. David Moore (17th) in October 2019 and co-sponsored by 10 others.
Instead, committee chairman Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), said the committee would meet again on Friday morning to conduct a hearing on the proposal, but would not vote on the measure. Brookins has only pledged to “hopefully” hold a yes or no vote on the order by next April.
On Thursday, Moore told the Sun-Times he agreed to change the order, limiting the name change outside of Hollywood’s Lake Shore Drive to 67th Street to limit the cost of the proposed name change.
Ephraim Martin, CEO of Martin’s International Foundation, said Thursday the honor was long overdue, saying Du Sable “was deprived of the honors that were due to him” because he was black.
“We will let the 240 years of yesteryear pass, but now you must begin the process of correcting systemic racism in Chicago and…vote ‘yes’ to renaming Lake Shore Drive, Du Sable Drive,” he said.
“We the people can’t take it anymore, the Black Heroes Matter coalition says ‘time is up let’s do the right thing’.”
Du Sable settled where the Chicago River and Lake Michigan meet in 1779, establishing a trading post and a farm before selling the property in 1800 and moving to the port of St. Charles. But Du Sable’s “successful role in the development of the Chicago River Colony went unrecognized until the middle of the 20th century,” the order says.
Renaming the drive would help educate the “very few people, especially tourists and newcomers to Chicago” about Du Sable’s life and importance to the city, the ordinance says.
The delay comes as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration conducts an assessment of all statues and other memorials to historical figures, flagging problematic pieces for possible removal and recommending the commissioning of new monuments or public art.
Lightfoot ordered the removal of three statues honoring Christopher Columbus over the summer, although at the time she said the removals were “temporary”.
In a statement, Lightfoot took no position on the name change, but said DuSable deserves recognition.
“Jean Baptiste Point du Sable has played a vital role in Chicago’s history and it is high time that we honor and recognize his significant contributions to our city,” the mayor said. “I look forward to continuing the conversation with the various stakeholders to find a way to enshrine his legacy. As I have said before, this is not a single statue, mural or street, it is It’s about how we elevate the stories of all of our city’s diverse residents, especially as it relates to commemorating our shared history.
Moore’s order recognizes other honors bestowed on Du Sable, but argues that it is “appalling that the founder of this great city should not have a main street in Chicago named after him.”
In addition to a school and the Du Sable Museum of African American History in Hyde Park, a small monument stands near the Du Sable Bridge on Michigan Avenue. The Chicago Park District is also renovating Du Sable Park, east of Lake Shore Drive, as part of the development that will plug the hole at the former Chicago Spire site.
When announcing the committee tasked with cataloging the city’s memorials and public art, Lightfoot’s office said the project aims to have a final set of recommendations “by the end of 2020.”
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