Today on the Black Blogger reflects I would like to look back 113 years to a kitchen in a Chicago apartment way hich housed a black brother with an astounding dream. He wanted to build an empire in the newspaper publishing business. Get this all this brother had was a quarter and a dream. Talk about being a bold dreamer. Not only did he only have a quarter he also was saddled in a racist nation with black skin. Yet, any barriers that may have been out in front of his dream were simply stepping stones to the miraculous achievement of his goal. This man, Robert S. Abbott, was the founding editor of the Chicago Defender, the voice of Chicago’s Black Belt. The Chicago Defender was also the voice for many blacks who resided in America’s own version of hell, The Jim Crow South.
Think about this just for a moment? Robert Abbott had a quarter which is worth about $6.78 in today’s money. With that quarter Robert S. Abbott changed the course of America. There were just a few around 50 semi-successful black daily, or weekly publications in this nation. Our black communities that had these publications that were considered the leaders in those communities Pittsburgh Courier, New York Amsterdam News, California Eagle, Atlanta Daily World, Baltimore Afro-American, Cleveland Call and Post, Los Angeles Sentinel, Philadelphia Tribute and The Norfolk Journal and Guide. Yet, historically when one thinks of a primary voice of the black community many think of that black weekly newspaper that began in a small kitchen apartment on the Southside of Chicago on May 5, 1905.
Robert S. Abbott’s initial Defender issues were four-page , six column handbills and were filled with local news items and clippings from other newspapers. The latter part is a semblance of what the Huffington Post does today online. Robert S. Abbott was a forward thinking man, a man beyond his time, a man whose dreams changed the landscape geographically, intellectually, economically, and socially of the entire country. He changed all that with a lucky quarter and a dream. Robert S. Abbott never used the words Negro or black to identify a proud people. Robert used the term RACE to encompass our people as a whole, Race men and Pace Women to separate us in terms of gender. That very thought endears me personally to this incredible man of vision.
It was the Chicago Defender that encouraged successfully the massive campaign shifting southern blacks north, west, and east that became known as “The Great Migration”. The movement of the Race from chains of the oppressive Jim Crow South to the Northern States of America. This migration was not of people moving from another nation to this nation. It was a movement of a great mass of people within the nation to the same nation. As matter of fact almost 1/2 million Black southerners moved to the North in a decade period between 1915-1925. If you want to learn more about this migration please read Isabelle Wilkerson’s magnificent book, The Warmth Of Other Suns. In that book Isabelle details the impacts the influence that the Chicago Defender had on this massive migration of a RACE of people.
Let’s get real again just for a moment. Do you think that Black Americans across this nation would have been aware of the many terroristic acts of violence perpetrated on our ancestors had not publications like the Chicago Defender not existed? The major white newspapers discounted the southern violence in many northern cities. The lynchings, the tortures, the burnings of our ancestors alive, the unjust murders, the white mob violence never moved to the front pages of New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribute, Cleveland Plain Dealer or any other major white newspaper across this segregated nation during this period.
In period when our ancestors were not allowed to be educated in southern schools, not being taught to read nor write, Chicago Defender were being read aloud in secrecy in churches, barbershops, and homes across the south. Our ancestors were being introduced to writers like Langston Hughes, Walter White, and Gwendolyn Brooks. They were becoming conscious that their plight was not ignored by those who lived in other sections of this nation. All of this because Robert S. Abbott had a dream and a simple quarter which combined together changed the course this nation. Although the remnants of Robert S. Abbott’s dream still lives today online and I think still in print. The majesty of those remarkable times when our community was seemingly more committed to step up to the challenge of unity and growth are steadily disappearing.
We now have so many voices that don’t read anything that builds consciousness that drive personal growth. So many of our supposedly black publications are seemingly more concerned about the fact that a black woman bares her ass cheeks, or someone is deprived of some meaningless statue , or that Kanye West really has a renewed awakening of God. Or caught up in an imaginary rap beef between Nick Cannon and Eminem. A real beef existed when Jim Crow was on the streets of southern towns and cities. The Chicago Defender defended our basic rights when most of America was set on snatching them rights away. That’s why the name Robert S Abbott must be held in the highest esteem. He cared not only about informing Chicago but informing an entire black nation. So, you wanna put someone on a pedestal of fame put Mr. Abbott up high.