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Byenveni nan Chicago

May is Haitian Heritage Month, and Chicago’s relationship with the country began with Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, its first non-native permanent resident. A Haitian trader of African and French descent, he arrived in the 1780s and is regarded as the founder of the city. After DuSable left in 1800, Chicago and Haiti remained connected through many historical moments, including the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, where the Haitian Pavilion served as a platform for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and the 1933–34 A Century of Progress International Exposition, which included a replica of DuSable’s home. 

Haitians have immigrated to the United States largely since the mid-1960s, and according to community leaders, the Haitian population in Chicago ranges from about 30,000 to 35,000, living mostly on the North and South Sides and in various suburbs. Haitians in Chicago have maintained their diverse cultural traditions through a number of institutions: churches, various social and political organizations, professional organizations, and in 2012, the community established the Haitian American Museum of Chicago. Learn more.

Engraving entitled “Chicago in 1779” (c. 1930) depicting Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable’s cabin in Chicago. CHM, ICHi-001187; Raoul Varin, engraver

Developed in partnership with Lake Forest College, Digital Chicago is a collection of digital projects about forgotten or at-risk aspects of Chicago’s history and culture. The scholarly work draws heavily from CHM’s vast research collection, which encompasses a broad category of documents, images, publications, and printed materials. 

Over the course of the twentieth century, a Haitian diasporic community formed in Chicago, and churches have been an important part of this communal development. Professor Courtney Pierre Joseph and her team sought to map the locations of the city’s Haitian churches while also uncovering the stories of the Haitian people who worship there. See it now.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago's Stories
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