John Sengstacke was an innovative and successful Black news publisher
John Sengstacke was born on this date in 1912. He was an African American publisher of Chicago's Black newspaper, Chicago Defender. The newspaper was founded in 1905 by Sengstacke's uncle, Robert S. Abbott, and had a strong voice in Chicago's African-American communities. The Chicago Defender was a widely read black newspaper. At the time, it had a circulation of about 25,000.
John Sengstacke was born in Savannah, GA. At a young age, John worked for the Woodville Times, which was owned by his grandfather and later his father Alexander Sengstacke. John's uncle, Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founded The Chicago Defender in 1905 and was the publisher. He trained his nephew John to be heir of this newspaper.
John’s uncle paid for his education at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, where he graduated in 1934. It was then that he became Vice President and General Manager of The Robert S. Abbott Publishing Company. In 1940, Robert Abbott died and John Sengstacke inherited his uncle’s newspaper.
He also founded the Negro Newspaper Publisher Association in 1940, now known as the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). In 1956, he took The Chicago Defender from a weekly to a daily publication.
The paper's Bud Billiken Parade, which marches through the South Side each August, has grown to become one of the nation's largest African-American community celebrations. John Sengstacke also owned the Courier newspapers of Pittsburgh and Miami and the Chronicle of Detroit.
John Sengstacke died May 28, 1997, in Chicago.
Black Heroes of The Twentieth Century
Edited by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI
Today in American History