100 years of Chicago Defender given to library

November 12, 2009 10:56:04 AM PST
The Chicago Defender newspaper was founded by Robert S. Abbott in 1905.On Wednesday, Abbott's great nephew, Bobby Sengstacke, donated a treasure trove of history to the Chicago Public Library.

"As we all know these papers are among the most significant resources of African American history and culture you'll find anywhere in the United States," said Mayor Daley.

Sengstacke donated old photos and papers from the past 100 years.

"It's primarily The Defender and about the two men who were at the helm of The Defender for ninety seven years," said Sengstacke. "My Great Uncle Robert Abbott and my dad, John Sengstacke."

The collection was in storage in 84 old boxes in a warehouse when the University of Chicago became involved and began to catalogue information on how the paper fought racism, promoted education and even was responsible for integrating the U.S. armed forces.

"Historians agree that the Chicago Defender is the most important African American newspaper of the twentieth century so there was bound to be something important in these boxes," said Prof. Jacqueline Goldsby, dir. of "Mapping the Stacks".

The project, called Mapping the Stacks, took Professor Goldsby and her students 18 months to catalogue the material.

The 84 boxes have been catalogued. They now fill 251 files and are loaded with interesting stories and quite a history. For instance, in the 1920s the Chicago Defender had a circulation of 250,000 and were read around the country- distributed by Pullman Porters.

"It was the bible. It was the paper of record. It was I would say to African Americans what the New Your Times is to mainstream America," said Professor Goldsby.

the Smithsonian wanted the collection and would have paid big money, but it's staying here.

"It came from here and it belongs here and it's going to be here," said Sengstacke.

Eventually the entire collection- including 4000 photographs- will be on the internet.


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