May 5: The Black-Owned Chicago Defender Newspaper Debuted On This Day In 1905

0 Posted by - May 5, 2022 - History, LATEST POSTS, On This Date

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: The Chicago Defender

Robert Sengstacke Abbott started The Chicago Defender in a tiny kitchen in his landlord’s apartment on May 5, 1905.

He started with a 25-cent investment and a print run of 300 publications. The early editions of the Chicago Defender were four-page, six-column handbills packed with Abbott’s collected local news and clippings from other published works. The Chicago Defender started to draw a national audience five years later.

This newspaper was the nation’s most significant Black weekly media source at the outset of World War I, with more than two-thirds of its readership based outside of Chicago. During World War I, the publication used its clout to successfully lobby in favor of “The Great Migration.” It ran flamboyant editorials, essays, and cartoons extolling the virtues of the North posted job listings and train timetables to aid migration, and designated May 15, 1917, as the “Great Northern Drive” start date. Because of the Chicago Defender’s support for The Great Migration, a record number of Southern readers moved to the North.

The Chicago Defender started publishing every day in 1956. The Pittsburgh Courier was bought by Stengstacke in 1965, and it became part of his “Sengstacke Newspaper network,” which also included the Michigan Chronicle in Detroit and the Tri-State Defender in Memphis. Sengstacke was the Defender’s publisher until his death in May 1997.

The Chicago Defender is the flagship journal of Real Times Inc., which owns the Michigan Chronicle, the Front Page, the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Tri-State Defender, among other publications. The Chicago Defender was honored with the coveted John B. Russwurm Award at the National Newspaper Publishers Association Merit Awards Gala in 2009.

Two first-place honors and two third-place awards were also given to the paper, including the John H. Sengstacke General Excellence Award.


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