John H. Sengstacke (right), 1941. Credit: Library of Congress Wikimedia / Creative Commons
The Chicago Defender has humble beginnings. Started byin the rooms of a boardinghouse, the paper quickly grew into a nationally-distributed enterprise. (Abbott himself became one of the first black self-made millionaires.) Ethan Michaeli, author of , traces the paper’s influence through history, from the Great Migration to the desegregation of the military.
- Abbott was able to start his paper thanks to new technology: the “portable” printing press. By churning out editions in his boarding house, Abbott was able to keep costs low and focus on producing news.
- President Truman’s executive order desegregating the military marked a major step in the Civil Rights movement. But a little known fact? The Defender played a big role in making it happen.
- When a young man running for the Illinois State Senate walked into the paper’s offices in an ill-fitting suit, the staff was not impressed. Luckily, they gave him another chance. “The Defender looked at Barack Obama, looked at his talents and his accomplishments… and said, this is a decent person with integrity.”
- Want to learn more? .
- Bobby Sengstacke, a photojournalist and the last Sengstacke to edit The Defender, died this month. .
- Michaeli isn’t the only writer to cover the Sengstackes. Roi Ottley, a great American journalist, wrote .