DuSable Drive–Part of the Reparations Owed to Black Chicago

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Kamm Howard, National Co-Chair of the National Coalition of Blacks--N'COBRA.

 “A race, like a man, must have a reputation.” Booker T Washington

“White traders, British Governors and Lieutenants describe DuSable as a wealthy man of good character, sound business acumen, and with many friends.” Wikipedia

In February of this year, I gave testimony before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in support of passing HR 40, The Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act.

In giving that testimony, I shared the international standard for reparations – full reparations – has 5 components:

  • cessation, assurances and guarantees of non-repetition – stopping bad acts and establishing
  • restitution – restoring the situation back to pre-injury status, (or what would have been if not for the harms).
  • compensation – for damages
  • satisfaction – to fix the damaged reputation and restore
  • rehabilitation – for heart, mind and spiritual injury

My focus here is the component of satisfaction. Satisfaction is necessary to return the dignity and harm to the reputation of Blacks as a result of the atrocities committed against us. Forms of satisfaction include apologies, museums, markers, monuments, and also renaming of spaces and places.

The US African American Redress Network has mapped hundreds of cities in the South and Southeast that have administered reparations in the form of satisfaction. Statues honoring confederate leaders have been removed, municipal buildings renamed, apologies given, and truth-telling forums are happening all over the south.

Chicago has had a long, long history of attack on Black life and our reputation. In presenting before the Chicago Health and Human Relations Committee of the City Council in support of a reparations commission, I stated that the attack on Black life in Chicago actually BEGAN with the attack on Jean Baptiste Point DuSable in 1800.

“[White attack on Blacks began] with the destruction of the first business, created by the very first settler, in the city that was to become Chicago. Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, a black man set up a three-state fur trading business on the shores of lake Michigan and named that place Eschacagou. Years later he would be run out of the city that he founded by racist whites and the emerging system of white supremacy.”

Many Chicagoans are aware of Kinzie street. That street was named after John Kinzie. His son, John H. Kinzie became 2nd president of Chicago Town, which later became the City of Chicago. It was this Kinzie who lost the election to William Ogden who became the City’s first Mayor.

However, it was the first Kinzie, his father, who robbed and then forced the Chicago founder, DuSable out of the town. After murdering his front man who acquired DuSable’s estate on his behalf, Kinzie became falsely known as the “first settler” in Chicago.

“The bill of sale, which was rediscovered in 1913 in an archive in Detroit, detailed all of the property Point du Sable owned, as well as many of his personal effects. This included a house, two barns, a horsedrawn mill, a bakehouse, a poultry house, a dairy, and a smokehouse. The house was a 22-by-40-foot (6.7 m × 12.2 m) log cabin filled with fine furniture and paintings.

Who sells all of their entire life’s work and accumulations and a thriving business for a fraction of what it is worth? And then moves hundreds of miles away and starts over from scratch? Certainly not a man “of good character, and sound business acumen.” It was the DuSable home, that John H. Kinzie lived and grew up in, benefiting from “generational theft.”

In renaming, the Outer Drive to DuSable Drive, this city will not only right its first historic wrong against Black people, but it will also begin to restore DuSable’s reputation and the injured reputation of all Black Chicagoans at the hands of its racist whites, institutions, and leaders in this city.

This is part of the reparations we demand. This is part of the reparations we are owed.

Kamm Howard, National Male CoChair, N’COBRA – the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America Co-Convenor, Conrad Worrill Community Reparations Commission.

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