Nobody in Chicago would seriously consider renaming State Street. It’s that “Great Street,” celebrated in song. It is integral to Chicago’s brand around the world.
Nobody would seriously consider renaming Madison Street, either, if only because State and Madison go together like salt and pepper. The intersection of State and Madison is the starting point for Chicago’s entire street grid.
In the same small category of iconic Chicago street names that should be left alone we would include Lake Shore Drive, the perfect name for that glorious ribbon of road that dazzles tourists and life-long Chicagoans alike. Lake Shore Drive should remain Lake Shore Drive — an advertisement for our town every time the name is spoken — though we appreciate the arguments of those who want to rename it for Jean Baptiste Point DuSable.
The larger point — that the contributions of Black people in Chicago have been underplayed and consciously suppressed in local histories for way too long — is entirely true. And we agree with those who want to do more to honor DuSable, a Black man who was the city’s first non-indigenous permanent settler.
We favor Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposals
to honor DuSable with new investments in a park east of Lake Shore Drive, and with monuments and programming on the Riverwalk. As the mayor says, this would be “something that helps teach about the legacy of DuSable and his wife that goes way past a name change.”
We also favor finding a more attention-grabbing way to honor DuSable, such as perhaps renaming the Dan Ryan Expressway or Edens Expressway for him. Dan Ryan was a Cook County Board president. William G. Edens, a banker who headed the Illinois Highway Improvement Association, never even owned or drove a car.