History’s Foundation: DuSable Hall

By Olivia Willoughby

At least once in their academic lives, students have had a class in DuSable Hall. Many, however, do not know this is a building named for an African-French trader who aided in the Revolutionary War.

“DuSable Hall was named after Jean Baptiste Paul Dessables,” said Paul Palian, director of media and public relations. “He was a black French trader who was the first non-Indian permanent resident in the area that’s now known as Chicago.”

DuSable Hall was built in 1968, named under one of Dessables’s aliases: Point du Sable.

LaVerne Gyant, director of the Center for Black Studies, said du Sable was born in Haiti and eventually moved to area that is currently Chicago.

“He was one of the founders of Chicago,” Gyant said. “Naming DuSable Hall was one way of having a building on campus to recognize a person of African descent who made major contributions to the Chicago area and to the history.”

According an article written June 18, 1976 in the Chicago Reader, at first, du Sable barely received any recognitions for his contributions made to Chicago as well in the Revolutionary War.

The article said there has been an issue with giving proper recognition to former African and African-American leaders from long ago. Du Sable was known as “The Black Chief” and sometimes the “Handsome Negro,” aiding the revolution against the British. However, the article suggests racism may be the cause of du Sable’s lack of recognition.

“You see, here’s the problem with him: he was black,” the article said.

Despite this, there were several efforts to obtain that recognition through the creation of groups and museums named after du Sable. Gyant noted the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place in Chicago.

Gyant said there are still African-Americans who have yet to receive any recognition for their contributions to history.

“Du Sable is one of so many African-Americans that made contributions that are unknown heroes,” Gyant said. “They’re only found out in periodicals or if you’re trying to find out that information. There’s still a lot of work we need to do in recognizing some of these unsung heroes, both men and women.”