The Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender is a Chicago-based weekly newspaper founded in 1905 by Robert S. Abbott for primarily African-American readers. Historically, The Defender is considered the "most important" paper of what was then known as the colored or Negro press.[2] Abbott's newspaper reported and campaigned against Jim Crow era violence and urged blacks in the American South to come north in what became the Great Migration. Under his nephew and chosen successor, John H. Sengstacke, the paper took on segregation, especially in the U.S. military, during World War II.[2]

In 1919–1922,[3] the Defender attracted the writing talents of Langston Hughes; from the 1940s through 1960s Hughes also wrote an opinion column for the paper. Ethel Payne, Gwendolyn Brooks and Willard Motley wrote for the paper at different times. It was published as The Chicago Daily Defender, a daily newspaper, from 1956 to 2003, when it returned to a weekly format.

The Chicago Defender
TypeWeekly newspaper
Owner(s)Real Times Inc.
FoundedMay 5, 1905
Circulation16,000 weekly [1]

Role in the Great Migration

The Chicago Defender's editor and founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott played a major role in influencing the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North by means of strong, moralistic rhetoric in his editorials and political cartoons, the promotion of Chicago as a destination, and the advertisement of successful black individuals as inspiration for blacks in the South. The rhetoric and art exhibited in the Defender demanded equality of the races and promoted a northern migration. Abbott published articles that were exposés of southern crimes against blacks.[4] The Defender consistently published articles describing lynchings in the South, with vivid descriptions of gore and the victims' deaths. Lynchings were at a peak at the turn of the century, in the period when southern state legislatures passed new constitutions and laws to disenfranchise most blacks and exclude them from the political system. Legislatures dominated by conservative white Democrats established racial segregation and Jim Crow.

Abbott openly blamed the lynching violence on the white mobs who were typically involved, forcing readers to accept that these crimes were "systematic and unremitting".[5] The newspaper's intense focus on these injustices implicitly laid the groundwork upon which Abbott would build his explicit critiques of society. At the same time, the NAACP was publicizing the toll of lynching at its offices in New York City.

The art in the Defender, particularly its political cartoons, explicitly addressed race issues and advocated northern migration of blacks.

After the movement of southern blacks northward became a quantifiable phenomenon, the Defender took a particular interest in sensationalizing migratory stories, often on the front page.[5] Abbott positioned his paper as a primary influence of these movements before historians would, for he used the Defender to initiate and advertise a "Great Northern Drive" day, set for May 15, 1917.[5] The movement to northern and midwestern cities, and to the West Coast at the time of World War I, became known as the Great Migration, in which 1.5 million blacks moved out of the rural South in early 20th century years up to 1940, and another 5 million left towns and rural areas from 1940 to 1970.

Abbott used the Defender to promote Chicago as an attractive destination for southern blacks. Abbott presented Chicago as a promised-land with abundant jobs, as he included advertisements "clearly aimed at southerners," that called for massive numbers of workers wanted in factory positions.[5] The Defender was filled with advertisements for desirable commodities, beauty products and technological devices. Abbott's paper was the first black newspaper to incorporate a full entertainment section.[5] Chicago was portrayed as a lively city where blacks commonly went to the theaters, ate out at fancy restaurants, attended sports events, including "cheering for the American Black Giants, black America's favorite baseball team", and could dance all night in the hottest night clubs.[4]

The Defender featured letters and poetry submitted by successful recent migrants; these writings "served as representative anecdotes, supplying readers with prototype examples ... that characterized the migration campaign".[4] To supplement these first-person accounts, Abbott often published small features on successful blacks in Chicago.

Continued historical influence

Part owner and general manager of the Chicago Defender
John Sengstacke (pictured 1942) took over for the Defender's founder, his uncle, Robert Abbott

In 1923, founding publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott and editor Lucius Harper created the Bud Billiken Club and later organized parades to promote healthy activity among black children in Chicago. In 1929 the organization began the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, which is still held annually in Chicago in early August. In the 1950s, under Sengstacke's direction, the Bud Billiken Parade expanded and emerged as the largest single event in Chicago. Today, it attracts more than one million attendance with more than 25 million television viewers, making it one of the largest parades in the country.[6]

Abbott took a special interest in his nephew, John H. Sengstacke, paying for his education and grooming him to take over the Defender, which he did in 1940 after working with his uncle for several years. He urged integration of the armed forces. In 1948, he was appointed by President Harry S. Truman to the commission to study this and plan the process, which was initiated by the military in 1949.

Sengstacke also brought together for the first time major black newspaper publishers and created the National Negro Publishers Association, later renamed the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). In the early 21st century, the NNPA consists of more than 200 member black newspapers. Two days following the publishers' first meeting in Chicago, Abbott died.

One of Sengstacke's most striking accomplishments occurred on February 6, 1956, when the Defender became a daily newspaper and changed its name to the Chicago Daily Defender, the nation's second black daily newspaper. It published as a daily until 2003, when new owners converted the Defender back to a weekly. The Defender was one of only three African-American dailies in the United States; the other two are the Atlanta Daily World,[7] the first black newspaper founded as a daily in 1928, and the New York Daily Challenge,[8] founded in 1971.

Sale to Real Times

Control of the Chicago Defender and her sister publications was transferred to a new ownership group named Real Times Inc. in January 2003. Real Times, Inc. was organized and led by Thom Picou, and Robert (Bobby) Sengstacke, John H. Sengstacke's surviving child and father of the beneficiaries of the Sengstacke Trust. In effect, Picou, then chairman and CEO of Real Times, Inc., led what was then labeled a "Sengstacke family-led" deal to facilitate trust beneficiaries and other Sengstacke family shareholders to agree to the sale of the company. Picou recruited Sam Logan, former publisher of the Michigan Chronicle, who then recruited O'Neil Swanson, Bill Pickard, Ron Hall and Gordon Follmer, black businessman from Detroit, Michigan (the "Detroit Group"), as investors in Real Times. Chicago investors included Picou, Bobby Sengstacke, David M. Milliner (who served as publisher of the Chicago Defender from 2003 to 2004), Kurt Cherry and James Carr.

See also


  1. ^ "Annual Audit Report, March 2011". Larkspur, Calif.: Verified Audit Circulation. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Staples, Brent (January 4, 2016). "A 'Most Dangerous' Newspaper ('The Defender,' by Ethan Michaeli)". New York Times. Sunday Book Review – January 10, 2016. p. 12. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  3. ^ Streitmatter, Rodger (2001). Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 141–158. ISBN 0-231-12249-7.
  4. ^ a b c DeSantis, Alan (1998). "Selling the American Dream Myth to Black Southerners: The Chicago Defender and the Great Migration of 1915–1919". Western Journal of Communication. 62 (4): 474–511. doi:10.1080/10570319809374621.
  5. ^ a b c d e Grossman, James (1985). "Blowing the Trumpet: The "Chicago Defender" and Black Migration during World War I". Illinois Historical Journal. 2. 78: 82–96.
  6. ^ Best, Wallace. "Bud Billiken Day Parade". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
  7. ^ "Atlanta Daily World". Atlanta Daily World.
  8. ^ New York Daily Challenge, Manta

Further reading

  • Michaeli, Ethan (2016). The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780547560694.
  • Washburn, Patrick S. The African American Newspaper: Voice of Freedom (Northwestern University Press, 2006); covers 1827-1900; emphasis on Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender

External links

1925 Colored World Series

The 1925 Colored World Series was the second edition of the championship series in Negro league baseball. The series featured a rematch between the Hilldale Club of Darby, Pennsylvania, champion of the Eastern Colored League (ECL), and the Kansas City Monarchs, champion of the Negro National League (NNL) and winner of the previous year's match in the first Colored World Series. In 1925, Hilldale won the best-of-nine series, five games to one.On the eve of the series, the Monarchs' star pitcher, Bullet Rogan, who had pitched a shutout in the deciding Game 7 of the NNL championship series, was injured while playing with his child at home, when a needle ran into his leg, leaving him unable to play in the World Series. Kansas City's manager and occasional pitcher was future Hall of Famer, 38-year-old José Méndez. Hilldale featured three future Hall of Famers—catcher, Biz Mackey, third baseman, Judy Johnson, and 35-year-old backup catcher and pinch hitter, Louis Santop.Attendance for series was disappointing—down more than 50 percent in comparison with the previous year's series. The financial results were so disappointing that one Kansas City Monarchs player said they would have been paid better barnstorming than playing in the series.For both teams, the 1925 season would represent the end to a three-year run as league champions. (Both teams had won their league championships in 1923, when no world series was played.) Kansas City would eventually return to win additional championships, appearing in the 1942 and 1946 series and winning in 1942. For Hilldale, however, the 1925 championship would be its last, as the team folded in 1932.

2015 Chicago mayoral election

An election took place on February 24, 2015, to elect the mayor of Chicago. The election was non-partisan and no candidate received a majority. A runoff election was held between the top two finishers (both Democrats) on April 7, 2015, and resulted in the reelection of incumbent mayor Rahm Emanuel. The elections were concurrent with the 2015 Chicago aldermanic elections.

Emanuel ran for reelection, seeking a second term in office. In the first round, Emanuel received 46% of the vote and Democratic Cook County Commissioner Jesús "Chuy" García received 34%. Because no candidate received a majority, a runoff was held. In the runoff, Emanuel received 55.7% of the vote, winning the election. Garcia received 44.3% of the vote. 2015 was the first time the election advanced to a runoff since mayoral elections became non-partisan in 1999.

Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic

The Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic (also known as The Bud Billiken Day Parade) is an annual parade held since 1929 in Chicago, Illinois,the United States of America; the Bud Billiken Day Parade is the largest African-American parade in the United States of America. Held annually on the second Saturday in August, The parade route travels through the Bronzeville and Washington Park neighborhoods on the city's south side. Robert S. Abbott, the founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, created the fictional character of Bud Billiken, which he featured in a column in his paper. David Kellum, co-founder of the Bud Billiken Club and longtime parade coordinator suggested the parade as a celebration of African-American life. Since its beginning, the parade has featured celebrities, politicians, businessmen, civic organizations and youth. It is considered the second largest parade in the United States, whose focus is on celebrating youth, education and African-American life. The parade is also cited as the "back-to-school" celebration, marking the end of summer vacation and resuming of school for Chicago's youth.

Chicago Bee

The Chicago Bee or Chicago Sunday Bee was a Chicago-based weekly newspaper founded by Anthony Overton, an African American, for primarily African-American readers. The paper was committed to covering "wholesome and authentic news", and adopted a middle-class, conservative tone. Politically, it was aligned with the Republican Party.After sharing quarters with the Hygienic Company in the 1920s, the Bee moved into the new Chicago Bee Building , an Art Deco structure built between 1929 and 1931. However, after Overton's bank failed in the 1930s, the two businesses shared quarters once again, as the Hygienic Company moved into the Bee building.Chandler Owen became editor of the Bee after moving to Chicago. The Bee initially supported the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which Owen supported, but later joined other publications including the Chicago Defender in opposing the union.Subsequent editors of the paper included Ida B. Wells and Olive Diggs. The Bee's editorial staff was mostly female, and the newspaper covered the black women's club movement extensively. It distinguished itself from other newspapers in the Chicago black press in its promotion of black history and literature.The Bee sponsored the original "Mayor of Bronzeville" contest which led to the use of the term "Bronzeville" for the neighborhood. The concept was originally suggested by theater editor James Gentry, who coined the term and had been sponsoring a beauty contest in the neighborhood since 1916. When Gentry left the paper in 1932, he took his concept with him to the Chicago Defender, which continued the contests.The paper's founder and owner Anthony Overton was a wealthy industrialist, owning a number of concerns including the Overton Hygienic Company, a successful cosmetics firm. He had also made a previous venture in publishing, in the form of the Half Century Magazine. After Overton's death in 1946, the Bee was briefly continued by his sons in a tabloid format, but was unsuccessful. It folded in 1947.Very little of the Bee survives today, apart from the building it occupied. One historian was unable to find a single intact issue from the years 1925 to 1935.

Chicago Defender Building

The Chicago Defender Building is the former Jewish synagogue building that housed the Chicago Defender from 1920 until 1960. It was designated a Chicago Landmark on September 9, 1998. It is located in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville District in the Douglas community area of Chicago, Illinois at 3435 S. Indiana Ave.

Ella Barksdale Brown

Ella Barksdale Brown was an American anti-lynching advocate, educator, suffragette and journalist, and a member of the first graduating class of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Brown was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, on June 22, 1871. After marrying John M. Brown in Georgia, she moved to New Jersey in 1901. She was given credit for introducing African-American studies into Jersey City Schools and for designating March 5 as Crispus Attucks day in New Jersey. She was the first woman to be appointed to the Hudson County Board of Election.As a journalist, Brown wrote for The Chicago Defender and The New York Amsterdam News.

Joe Lillard

Joseph Johnny Lillard Jr. (June 15, 1905 – September 18, 1978) was an American football, baseball, and basketball player. From 1932 to 1933, he was a running back for the National Football League's (NFL) Chicago Cardinals. Lillard was the last African-American, along with Ray Kemp, to play in the NFL until 1946, when Kenny Washington and Woody Strode joined the Los Angeles Rams. Lillard received the nickname "The Midnight Express" by the media. In 1933, he was responsible for almost half of the Cardinals' points.

An orphan from an early age, Lillard attended Mason City High School before moving to the University of Oregon. He played twice for the university's football team in 1931 before he was ruled ineligible by the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) for playing semi-professional baseball. The following year, he signed with the Cardinals, but played less frequently toward the end of the season. Lillard was a leading contributor for the Cardinals in 1933, receiving praise from the Chicago Defender. His performances during the season included a game against the Chicago Bears that featured a punt return for a touchdown. However, he was ejected from two games that season for fighting, into which he was often baited by white opponents.

With the advent of an unofficial color line that excluded black players, Lillard did not play in the NFL after 1933. He remained active in football, playing for minor league and semi-professional teams, including the New York Brown Bombers, with whom he spent three seasons. Lillard was also a pitcher in Negro league baseball for five seasons from 1932 to 1944, and a guard in basketball for the future Harlem Globetrotters. After his athletic career, he became an appliance store employee and died in 1978.

List of African-American Greek and fraternal organizations

Prince Hall Freemasonry (PHA) is the first historically Black fraternal organization. The first Greek Letter fraternal organization was Alpha Kappa Nu at Indiana University in 1903. Wilberforce University is where Gamma Phi was established in 1905. Sixty miles away at Columbus, Ohio in March 1905, Pi Gamma Omicron was founded at Ohio State University (formation originally reported in the Chicago Defender in 1905). These organizations folded quickly without successfully establishing more than one college chapter each. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, established at Cornell University in December 1906, is the first Black intercollegiate fraternity (the first to have more than one college chapter). It still exists today.

Alpha Phi Alpha's success inspired the founding of other Black Greek intercollegiate organizations. Today, these organizations (fraternities and sororities) are known collectively as the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and emphasize public service and civil rights. Some non-NPHC Black fraternal organizations, such as the Swing Phi Swing and Groove Phi Groove, do not solely use Greek letters in their names.

The first Black professional Greek fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi, was established in Pennsylvania in 1904.

Michigan Chronicle

The Chronicle is a weekly newspaper based in Detroit, Michigan, serving the African-American community. It was founded in 1936 by John H. Sengstacke, owner of the Chicago Defender. Together with the Defender and a handful of other African-American newspapers, it is owned by Detroit-based Real Times Inc. Its headquarters are in the Real Times offices in Midtown Detroit.

National Newspaper Publishers Association

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), was founded in 1940 when John H. Sengstacke, of the Chicago Defender, organized a meeting with other African-American publishers intended for "harmonizing our energies in a common purpose for the benefit of Negro journalism". The group decided to form the National Negro Publishers Association. In 1956, the trade association was renamed the National Newspaper Publishers Association.In the early 21st century, the NNPA is composed of more than 200 black newspapers in the United States and the Virgin Islands. They have a combined readership of 15 million, and the organization has created an electronic news service, BlackPressUsa web site, which enables newspapers to provide real-time news and information to its national constituency. "In 2000, the NNPA launched NNPA Media Services — a print and web advertising placement and press release distribution service."

P.L. Prattis

Percival Leroy (P.L.) Prattis (April 27, 1895–February 29, 1980) was an American journalist. He was the city editor of the Chicago Defender, the most influential African-American weekly newspaper in the U.S. at the beginning of World War I. Later, he spent 30 years at the Pittsburgh Courier, another influential black paper, rising up to become executive editor.

Pi Gamma Omicron

Pi Gamma Omicron (ΠΓΟ) was one of the first documented black collegiate fraternities which was founded in 1905. The group was founded at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The group had 12 members. The group was not known by the Ohio State's registrars office but was known to the Chicago Defender newspaper which wrote an article about Pi Gamma Omicron. This article about Pi Gamma Omicron took the interest of Alpha Phi Alpha founder Robert H. Ogle who was inspired to transform Alpha Phi Alpha from a literary society into a fraternity.

Pi Gamma Omicron had initial desires to become a national fraternity by establishing chapters in Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana according to the Beta Theta Pi correspondent at Ohio State University.Some members went on to earn law degrees.

Pittsburgh Courier

The Pittsburgh Courier was an African-American weekly newspaper published in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1907 until October 22, 1966. By the 1930s, the Courier was one of the top black newspapers in the United States.It was acquired in 1965 by John H. Sengstacke, a major black publisher and owner of the Chicago Defender. He re-opened the paper in 1967 as the New Pittsburgh Courier, making it one of his four newspapers for the African-American audience.

Real Times

Real Times Media LLC is the owner and publisher of the Chicago Defender, the largest and most influential African-American weekly newspaper, as well as five other regional weeklies in the eastern and Midwestern United States. Its headquarters are in Midtown Detroit.

The company was founded in January 2003 by a consortium of Chicago and Detroit business leaders to take over the assets of Sengstacke Enterprises Inc., the longtime owner of five of the papers.

Robert S. Abbott House

The Robert S. Abbott House is a historic house at 4742 South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the Grand Boulevard community area of Chicago, Illinois. Built about 1900, it was home from 1926 until his death of Robert S. Abbott (1870-1940), founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, the largest-circulation African-American newspaper in the nation.About started this newspaper in 1905 in which he heartened blacks in southern United States to move into north far from racist south. Abbott became one of the few self-made black millionaires in the early 20th century. His home was designated a National Historic Landmark status in 1976.

Robert Sengstacke Abbott

Robert Sengstacke Abbott (November 24, 1870 – February 29, 1940) was an African-American lawyer, newspaper publisher and editor. Abbott founded The Chicago Defender in 1905, which grew to have the highest circulation of any black-owned newspaper in the country. An early adherent of the Bahá'í religion in the United States, Abbott founded the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic in 1929, which has developed into a celebration for youth, education and African–American life in Chicago, Illinois.

The Broad Ax

The Broad Ax (1895-1931) was a weekly newspaper that began publication on Aug. 31, 1895, originally in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Julius F. Taylor. After a series of conflicts with the Latter Day Saints, Taylor relocated the newspaper to Chicago, Illinois in 1899. The Broad Ax has been described as "the most controversial black newspaper in Chicago in the late nineteenth century," in some ways due to its criticism of Booker T. Washington.The last known surviving issue of The Broad Ax is dated September 10, 1927, but an obituary for Taylor published in The Chicago Defender states that the newspaper ceased publication in 1931.Issues for years 1895-1922 have been digitized and are available for free online at Chronicling America and the University of Illinois Library's Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.

The Dungeon (1922 film)

The Dungeon is a 1922 race film directed, written, produced and distributed by Oscar Micheaux, considered the African-American Cecil B. DeMille due to his prolific output of films during the silent era, one of his greatest works being Body and Soul (1924). The Dungeon was his first horror effort, an early blaxploitation take on the Bluebeard legend..

Micheaux was criticized by D. Ireland Thomas, a columnist with the Chicago Defender, for his casting of light-skinned African Americans who could pass for white, attempting to make his films more commercially successful. Thomas questioned whether Micheaux was "relying on his name alone to tell the public that it is a race production; or maybe he is after booking it in white theaters."No print of the film is known to exist and it is presumed to be a lost film.

Tri-State Defender

The Tri-State Defender is a weekly newspaper published in Memphis, Tennessee, serving the African-American communities in Memphis and nearby areas of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. It bills itself as "The Mid-South's Best Alternative Newspaper".

The Defender was founded in 1951 by John H. Sengstacke, owner of the Chicago Defender. In 2013, the paper was locally purchased from Real Times Media by Best Media Inc.

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