Robert Sengstacke Abbott was born on St. Simon’s island in 1868 and raised in Savannah. He attended law school in Chicago.
When Abbott couldn’t find a job as a lawyer, he turned to journalism and founded the Chicago Defender. Within a decade it became the most important African-American newspaper in the country. By 1929 the Defender sold more than 250,000 copies a week and with an audience far beyond Chicago, it helped develop a national African-American culture.
The paper played a leading role in the great migration of black Americans from the south to the urban north in the aftermath of World War I. Abbott contrasted opportunities available to blacks in Chicago with those in the South, and the paper attacked lynching and racial injustice everywhere. White efforts to keep the Defender out of the South only made it more popular.
The man who created what Langston Hughes called the “journalistic voice of a largely voiceless people” was born on St. Simon’s on November 24, 1868, Today in Georgia History.
TheChicago Defender continues to be published today.