Robert S. Abbott

February 24, 2021

Robert Sengstacke Abbott photographed in 1919.


Robert Sengstacke Abbott photographed in 1919.

Robert Sengstacke Abbott was born Nov. 24, 1870, in St. Simons, Georgia. He died Feb. 29, 1940, at the age of 69 in Chicago, Illinois. His father died when he was just a baby. His mother went on to marry John Sengstacke, a biracial man of German descent. ‘Sengstacke’ was added onto Abbott’s name.

Abbott attended what is now known as Hampton University in Virginia, a historically black university. While there, he studied the printing trade. However, he went on to earn his law degree from Kent College of Law, in Chicago. He attempted to open his own law practice, but due to racial discrimination, he was unable to to do so. 

Due to not opening his own law practice, he founded the Chicago Defender in 1905. It became the most widely circulated black newspaper in the country. It was a way to give hope to oppressed people of the south, as it encouraged people to leave the south for the north. He even set a date known as “The Great Northern Drive.” 

Another notable accomplishment of his was founding the Bud Billiken parade in 1929. It was named after a fictional character named Bud Billiken for articles in the Defender. It became a parade where African Americans could celebrate their pride and historical connections. The Bud Billiken parade is still celebrated today. 

Abbott was a trailblazer that sought for a world that was free of racial prejudice. After suffering setbacks, he persevered to accomplish numerous goals. His contributions have helped pave the path for many others. Chicago Defender is still up and running today, showing that his legacy continues on. 


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