This Day in Black History: May 5, 1905

Influential Black newspaper The Chicago Defender was founded by Robert S. Abbott.

Posted: 05/05/2013 07:00 AM EDT
Chicago Defender

On May 5, 1905, the influential Black newspaper, the Chicago Defender, was founded by Robert S. Abbott. The paper was the first African-American publication to have a circulation over 100,000.

The paper began as a four-page, six-column handbill Abbott produced with an initial investment of 25 cents. He produced the paper alone out of a small kitchen in his landlord's apartment until 1910, when he hired his first full-time, paid employee.

Tackling issues of racism, discrimination and highlighting the upward mobility og Blacks, the paper quickly began to attract readers from outside the Chicago area. The paper is credited with influencing much of the migration of Blacks from the South to northern cities like Chicago through its detailed reporting on lynchings and its promotion of Chicago and other Northern cities as prosperous desitnations, teeming with jobs and opportunity.
 
Although white distributors refused to distribute the paper in the South, Black Pullman porters and entertainers helped the paper reach readers across the Mason-Dixon line. At its height, the Defender was estimated to have a readership of over 500,000 each week.

In 1948, Abbott's nephew John H. Sengstacke took over control of the paper and under his direction, the Defender became a daily newspaper on Feb. 6, 1956. In 2003, a company controlled by one of John Sengstacke’s nephews took over the paper and returned it to a weekly format.

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(Photo: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

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