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The Chicago Defender Newspaper (1905-2019)

Discussion of the Lasting Impact and Influence of this Chicago Area Newspaper
Cheryl Cheatham  /  Tuesday, July 16, 2019  /  Categories: Just in Case  /  Rate this article:
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On Wednesday, July 10, 2019, New York Times reporters Monica Davey and John Eligon paid homage to the local newspaper in an article entitled, The Chicago Defender, Influential Black Newspaper, Prints Final Copy.  Although the publication will continue in digital format, the significance of the newspaper in the African American community in Chicago, and around the country, cannot be minimized.

The demise of the Chicago Defender's print editions represents  a painful passage.  Davey and Eligon report, "Still the demise of the Chicago Defender's print editions represented a painful passage for many people who grew up in Chicago and for those with memories of its influence far beyond this city.  Of its many significant effects over many years, The Defender told of economic success in the North, and was seen as a catalyst in the migration of hundreds of thousands of black Americans from the South.  

The Rev. Jesse Jackson described The Defender this way:  "The Defender delivered news of monumental events -- the funeral of Emmett Till, the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the election of Barack Obama -- but everyday life for black Americans.  We never say ourselves listed other places in weddings, funerals, debutantes, so this became a real frame of reference for activities."

The Chicago Defender was founded in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbot in a landlord's kitchen.  Reporters Davey & Eligon describe its beginnings,

"In the years that followed, the newspaper's reputation reached far beyond Chicago, in part with the help from Pullman railway porters who carried copies of the newspaper with them and spread the editions along their routes.  The newspaper tackled issues of race head on, editorializing against Jim Crow laws, advocating equity for African-Americans in the military, and becoming an essential outlet for any politician who hoped to win black voters."

When the Chicago Defender ceases its print editions, the newspaper's owner has stated, "The Defender will continue its Digital Operation, according to Hiram E. Jackson, chief executive of Real Times Media, which owns The Defender and other black newspapers around the country.  He said the move would allow the news organization to adapt to a fast-changing, highly-challenging media environment that has upended the entire newspaper industry. . . "It's an economic decision," Mr. Jackson adds, "but it's more an effort to make sure that The Defender has another 100 years."

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