Jeanne Baptiste Pointe de Sable-The Black Chief

DuSable bust dedicated in Chicago This bronze sculpture is located the north side of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue.

DuSable bust dedicated in Chicago This bronze sculpture is located the north side of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue.

When you were in school, how many African Americans do you remember from the history books? I can remember a very few. Off the top of my head, I can think of Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

That’s about all I can remember. What would you say if I told you that Chicago was founded by a very enterprising African American? On this date, March 12, 1773, Jeanne Baptiste Pointe de Sable found  a settlement upon ground upon which Chicago now stands. He built a farm at the mouth of the Chicago River in around 1780. He emigrated south to Missouri in 1800.

The tribune tower is now located on what was DuSable's property.

The tribune tower is now located where DuSable had his trading post.

He was born in Santa Domingo (Haiti) around 1745. The son of a French sailor and a African slave mother,  legend has it that Jean Baptiste’s mother was killed by Spanish raiders. To escape, Jean Baptiste swam out to his father’s ship. Afterwards his father took him to France to further his education.

Jean Baptiste arrived in New Orleans in 1764. He and a friend became traders and journeyed up the Mississippi to what is now Michigan. He was adopted by the Potawatomie tribe and took one as his bride. They called him the “Black Chief.”

In 1773, DuSable moved to an area which the Indians called  Eschecagou, but the white men mispronounced as “Chicago.” He built a trading post at the mouth of the river, near where the Tribune Tower now stands. During the American Revolution the British forced him off his claims. While he was separated from his holdings, he operated another trading post in Michigan.

DuSable reclaimed his Chicago property from the American government at the end of the war. His holdings grew to include his 22×40-foot home, he built two barns, a mill, bakery, dairy, workshop, henhouse, and smokehouse. He sold flour, bread, and pork. As an adopted  Potawatomie,  he had a good relationship with the Native Americans. He hired many of them in his enterprises.

In 1800, for some mysterious reason, DuSable  sold his property. He then had a farm near Peoria until his wife died ten years later. He then moved in with his daughter in St. Charles, Missouri and died on August 28, 1818. He was buried in a local catholic cemetery in an unmarked grave.

He had sold his property to  John Kinzie who for years was considered the area’s original settler. DuSable was forgotten, but in 1912 a plaque was placed on a building near the site where his cabin had been. Later a high school was named for him on Wabash Avenue.

DuSable High School

Finally in 2006, the Chicago City Council officially recognized DuSable as Chicago’s founder. In 2009, an outdoor statuary bust memorial of him was dedicated and is located on Michigan Avenue, just north of the river–right near his old front door.  The rightful first settler of Chicago finally has the recognition he deserves.

Black American History Month

On This Date In American History as it Relates to the American Revolution

It seems only fitting that on this the last day of February, we acknowledge and give homage to Black American History Month. In addition, this seemed the appropriate date to honor Black Americans because on February 28, 1778,  Rhode Island General Assembly authorized the enlistment of slaves.

Black American Revolution

Black American Revolution

From even before the first shots on Lexington Green, African Americans had a role in America’s fight for independence. Among the dead at the Boston Massacre was an African American by the name of Crispus Attucks. On April 19, 1775, African Americans were among the Minutemen who defended the stores of ammunition that the colonists accumulated in Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts. In the early months of the war, concern among whites over the arming of free African Americans and slaves increased. Recognizing the need for manpower against superior British forces, General George Washington authorized the enlistment of free African Americans on December 30, 1775. In turn, Congress relented and allowed the re-enlistment of those free men who had served their country at the beginning of the war.

For slaves seeking freedom in return for military service, life in the army was a step up in society. For free African Americans, service was looked upon as a way to increase their community standing and earn cash and land bounties. Desertion rates among African Americans were lower than among other ethnic groups. By 1777, whites and African Americans served side-by-side in the Continental Army. But not all African Americans fought on the side for independence; some fought for the British.

While numerous soldiers captured by the British Army suffered and died in the holds of prison ships, many white soldiers were exchanged for captured British soldiers. However, African American soldiers were rarely exchanged for British prisoners of war, and many of the African Americans were sold into slavery in the West Indies.

According to Thomas Fleming in Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge, the Valley Forge encampment included many African Americans. The First Rhode Island Regiment, in General James Varnum’s Brigade, consisted largely of African American and Native American soldiers. According to pension records and other source documents, at least five hundred African Americans were at Valley Forge. They include Shadrack Battles, a 32-year-old “free man of color” who enlisted in the Tenth Virginia Regiment in December 1779, and Windsor Fry, another free black man who served with the First Rhode Island Regiment. Salem Poor of Massachusetts, who purchased his freedom, came to Valley Forge after distinguished service at Bunker Hill and Saratoga. African Americans at Valley Forge included slaves serving as substitutes for their masters; one of these was Samual Surphen in the New Jersey Brigade. A belated hats off to the African Americans who fought for America’s Independence from Great Britain.

The End of Another Week, The End of the Month

Can you believe that another week has come and gone? Can you believe that it is the end of the month as well? It has certainly been a busy one for me. In addition to writing this blog, I have written a hub on hubpages every day this week since Monday. Below are the links to the hubs I have written.

Monday I wrote

The Sustainability of an Apple Tree

apples in treeTuesday I wrote

              A Continuous Supply of Radishes


Wednesday I wrote:

Growing Beets in the Garden

beetsThursday I wrote:

Plant Swiss Chard, A Hardy Summer Green


Friday I Wrote:

Growing Broccoli, A Garden Favorite