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Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender was the United Statesí most influential black weekly newspaper by the beginning of World War I. The Defender was founded on May 5, 1905 by Robert S. Abbott with an investment of 25 cents and a press run of 300 copies. The first issues, which were created on the kitchen table of his landlordís apartment, were four-page, six-column handbills and filled with news gathered by Abbott, as well as clippings from other, more established newspapers.

By 1910, Abbott was in a position to hire a full time employee and the Defender began to attain a national reputation. Using the yellow journalism techniques from other papers, the Defender began to attack racial injustice. The paperís circulation was helped by Pullman porters and entertainers who distributed the newspaper south of the Mason-Dixon line. By 1917, more than two-thirds of the paperís readership was outside of Chicago. It was the first black paper with a circulation over 100,000 and it is believed that as many as half a million people read the newspaper each week.

In the late teens, the Defender campaigned for blacks to migrate from the South to the North and was highly successful, tripling Chicagoís black population in just three years from 1916-1918. The Defender also attracted the writing talents of Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks.

John H. Sengstacke took over the paper in 1940. On February 6, 1956, the Defender became a daily paper and changed its name to the Chicago Daily Defender. When Sengstacke died in 1997, the Defender fell on hard times due to estate taxes. The paper has been close to being sold several times, but in each case, Sengstackeís family has prevented to sale. Although still being published, the Defenderís future at this time (August 2002) may be in jeopardy.