His Name Was Du Sable

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In "His Name Was Du Sable," Margaret Burroughs lists the many accomplishments and lasting influences of Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, making an argument for his right to the title of the first Chicagoan.  She describes, at length, the architectural significance of Du Sable settling in the Chicago area, building the city's first permanent residence and trading post. Creating the city's first buildings and developing the land which has now become the heart of the city, Du Sable's impact as the primary and pioneering force in Chicago's development cannot be ignored.

Burroughs begins her article with the question of who Du Sable actually is. A free Santo Domingan, educated and of a respectable family, Burroughs describes the many concessions reluctantly offered to Du Sable's name in the long list of Chicago "firsts". From the birth of the first white child to the first spelling class, even the first batches of mail to be opened in the city, Du Sable's cabin was home to many events regarded as testament to the initial establishment of Chicago as a city. These historic events were mostly political, and reflect efforts to organize Chicago into a functioning municipality, with working systems of justice, mail and education.  

Burroughs also strays into a collection of more personal attributes ascribed to Du Sable, however, in the section "What Was Du Sable Like?" which speak less to his role in influencing the growth of the city and more to the admirable qualities history has granted to him. In accrediting him with a handsome appearance, pleasant disposition, and ability to maintain strong friendships, Burroughs paints Du Sable as a great man, although such a listing of personal qualities is hardly constructive in deeming him the first Chicagoan.

Burroughs' argument is most effective, instead, in the sections in which she describes the specific functions and lasting influence, which the construction of Du Sable's buildings played a role in, as well as his involvement in the Revolution. Apart from the lengthy list of household furnishings which says little about Du Sable's leadership and impact, Burroughs makes an effective argument in seeking the title of first Chicagoan for Du Sable.

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