ASRI History

ASRI scientists and summer vacation volunteers investigate cemetery plots -- Jean Baptiste Point de Sable St. Charles, MO.
ASRI scientists and summer vacation volunteers investigate cemetery plots — Jean Baptiste Point de Sable St. Charles, MO.

In 1999, a group of scientists and educators, led by forensic anthropologist Jihad Muhammad, decided it was time to confront a serious issue within the African American community: Many African Americans do not know or understand their connection to American slavery and, lacking this connection, cannot verify their ancestral history.

As a result, Black American children often suffer from low self-esteem, which in turn affects how they respond to their environment.

Muhammad proposed an organization that would apply the principles of biomedical and cultural heritage research to help investigate and trace the footsteps of ancient Black American progenitors in America between 1628 and 1888.  The organization was incorporated as the African Scientific Research Institute (ASRI) and launched its first major project: to piece together the past of Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable, a fur trader of Haitian descent who is now regarded as the founder of Chicago.

ASRI chose de Sable because of his importance to American history and because very little was known about the man, his life and the settlement he built on the western shores of Lake Michigan. Using scientific tools such as DNA profiling, Computerized Tomography (CT) scans and laser analysis, ASRI researchers identified de Sable and other individuals of historic significance.  Then they used advanced forensic techniques — facial reconstruction, for example — to put flesh on skeletal remains. ASRI collaborated with another team of scientists to conduct an archaeological investigation to find artifacts, tools, and buildings of the era in which de Sable lived.

The result was a clear picture of the man: how he lived, where he lived and why he made certain decisions.

see the video clip of the documentary In Search of DuSable.