ABBOTT, ROBERT S. (1868–1940), Chicago, newspaper publisher.
Since America’s first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was started in 1827, many writers and historians have chronicled the role of newspapers, magazines, and other media communications forms as carriers and preservers of black life and culture. These media have become notable primarily for their crusading image—speaking for, defending, and promoting the interests of black people. For years, the publications, primarily weeklies, shined a bright spotlight on the ugly legacy of America’s racially segregated past—lynchings, boycotts, mass demonstrations, Ku Klux Klan marches, discrimination in the workplace, and so forth. Of course, they also trumpeted black achievement in sports, education, science, government, entertainment, and other areas long before the majority press reported about successful African Americans.
Although financial problems choked out the lives of several thousand black publications over the years (primarily because they could not obtain advertising), several newspapers and magazines managed to survive, tributes to the individuals who founded, nurtured, and guided them over the years. These were media institutions that proved themselves to be successful, both as crusading advocates for black Americans and as financially well-run business enterprises. Among some of the ‘‘leaders’’ who helped to put the black press on a solid financial footing, nearly a dozen names are often mentioned as important in enabling this economic institution to survive and thrive.
By no means is this an exhaustive list; nonetheless, among the earlier leaders were Robert S. Abbott (Chicago Defender); John H. Murphy, Jr. (Afro-American); Christopher James Perry, Sr. (Philadelphia Tribune); Robert Lee