John Sengstacke

John H. Sengstacke

John Herman Henry Sengstacke was an African American newspaper publisher, who was born in Savannah, Georgia on November 25, 1912. At a young age, John worked for the Woodville Times, which was owned by his grandfather and later his father Alexander Sengstacke. His uncle Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founded The Chicago Defender in 1905 and was the publisher, trained John to be heir of this newspaper. The Chicago Defender was a widely read black newspaper. John’s uncle paid for his education at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, where he graduated in 1934. It was then that he became Vice President and General Manager of The Robert S. Abbott Publishing Company. In 1940, Robert Abbott died and John Sengstacke inherited his uncle’s newspaper.


Sengstacke immediately got involved with the segregation issues of the time. He worked with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to have African American reporters in the White House and to create jobs in the Postal Service for African Americans. One of John’s biggest objectives was to desegregate the armed forces. Ultimately, President Harry Truman named Sengstacke to the commission he formed to integrate the military. Sengstacke established the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which was an endeavor to unify and strengthen African-American owned papers. He served seven terms as president of this association.

In 1956, Sengstacke had another huge milestone in his career; he turned his weekly newspaper into a daily newspaper. At that time, The Chicago Defender was the nations largest African American owned daily paper. He also purchased a chain of newspapers; Pittsburgh Courier, Tri-State Defender, and Michigan Chronicle. John Sengstacke died on May 28, 1997, but his many accomplishments will always be remembered. In 2000, just three years after John’s death, President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Sengstacke the Presidential Citizens Medal. Myiti Sengstacke, granddaughter of John, now publishes the Chicago Defender.


  • Alkalimat, Abdul. The African American Experience in Cyberspace. Pluto Press, 1994.

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