Lake Shore Drive as seen from the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck in the Streeterville neighborhood on April 30, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — The city’s iconic Lake Shore Drive has a new name after the City Council voted Friday to call it Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive to honor the first non-Indigenous settler of Chicago.

The name change affects 17 miles of outer Lake Shore Drive from Hollywood Avenue to East 67th Street. It comes after weeks of controversy and contentious back-and-forth between Mayor Lori Lightfoot — who opposed the name change — and aldermen who have pushed for the name as a way to honor DuSable.

Ald. Sophia King (4th), speaking in support of the name change just before the decisive vote, said “names have significant meaning.”

“It’s been argued not to change Lake Shore Drive because it’s so iconic,” she said. “I argue just the opposite, let’s change it because it’s so iconic.” 

King tied the renaming to the previous renaming of Martin Luther King Drive, which did not span the entire city.

“What we choose to celebrate or not celebrate tells a story and helps to shape our conscience,” she said. “That we choose to honor a great man whose legacy has been marginalized because he was Black. I hope our story is that we choose a name that is about racial healing and reckoning to honor our founder, who happens to be Black and Haitian. So I ask, what’s in a name? History, education, pride, healing, racial reckoning, and hopefully unity.”

Ald. David Moore (17th) and a group called Black Heroes Matter pushed to rename the roadway Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive since 2019, and they appeared to have the votes to do so if the proposal was called for a vote at Wednesday’s Council meeting. But the meeting was abruptly adjourned amid a cloud of confusion over procedural rules.

Aldermen then agreed to a compromise plan to sandwich together the names and call the street Jean Baptiste DuSable Lake Shore Drive — but only if the vote was called at Friday’s meeting.

Thirty-three aldermen voted in favor of the change and 15 voted against it. Moore was moved to tears when speaking with reporters following the vote.

The name change comes as people have sought ways to honor Black historical figures like du Sable.

But critics of the change have said residents don’t want to change their address or worried about getting rid of the iconic “Lake Shore Drive” name. Some said aldermen should focus on other issues, like Chicago’s recovery after the pandemic or the city’s spike in shootings and murders.

King addressed that criticism in her speech.

“So why are we spending so much time on this issue, when we have bigger fish to fry: gun violence, COVID recovery, true racial disparity?” she said. “We can chew gum and walk. It isn’t either or but really, names are important.”

Lightfoot proposed other ways of honoring du Sable, including building out DuSable Park, hosting a festival in his honor and naming the Riverwalk for him. There was also a push to rename Millennium Park for du Sable, a move that Ald. Brian Hopkins (1st) argued was a more prestigious honor.

Renaming Millennium Park “is much more compelling and much more attractive” than renaming the drive, he said.

Ald. Brendan Reilly also spoke against the name change. Reilly said his constituents “prefer to keep the name Lake Shore Drive” and that the city has already honored du Sable in several ways.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) said opposition to the name change, including from inside the City Council, showed there was work to do to combat “white supremacy.”

“The only thing controversial about renaming Lake Shore Drive is how long it’s taken,” he said.

After leading the fight since the fall of 2019, Moore kept it short on Friday, asking his colleagues to “do the right thing.”

Those voting no for the change were: Alds. Brian Hopkins(2nd), Marty Quinn (13th), Matt O’Shea (19th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Felix Cardona (31st), Nick Sposato (38th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Anthony Napolitano (41st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th), Jim Gardiner (45th), James Cappleman (46th) and Debra Silverstein (50th)

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