This Day in History: 1905-05-04

Robert S. Abbott founds and begins publishing The Chicago Defender, a Chicago-based African-American newspaper that at one time is considered the “most important” newspaper of its kind. The newspaper reported and campaigned against Jim Crow era violence and urged Black people in the American South to come north in what became the Great Migration. Abbott worked out an informal distribution system with Pullman porters who surreptitiously (and sometimes against southern state laws and mores) took his paper by rail far beyond Chicago, especially to African American readers in the Southern United States. Under his nephew and chosen successor, John H. Sengstacke, the paper took on segregation, especially in the U.S. military, during World War II. Copies of the paper were passed along in communities, and it is estimated that at its most successful, each copy made its way into the hands of four out of five African-Americans. Over its century-plus history, Langston Hughes, Washington D.C and international correspondent Ethel Payne, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, author Willard Motley, journalists Ida B. Wells, L. Alex Wilson, and Louis Lomax all wrote for the paper at different times. Learn more.