Chicago Defender Moves Back To The South Side

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Posted by on May 27, 2009 at 11:13:29:

Chicago Defender goes back to Bronzeville

Isolated in its downtown digs, African-American newspaper returns to its roots

By Lolly Bowean | Tribune reporter

May 27, 2009

After more than three years of operating from a swanky downtown high-rise, the Chicago Defender newspaper has returned to the South Side -- a move back to its African-American roots in location and mission, said President Michael A. House.

"There is no better place to be than in Bronzeville, the place where historically, black people have been," he said. "Our community still wants to see us and talk to us. This is where we belong."

The new location is in an area undergoing a slow revitalization. The building, at 4445 S. King Drive, housed a funeral home and Metropolitan Insurance.

"It's in a building which was built by and for black businesses," said local historian Timuel Black. "The site itself has a great deal of history that is important for African-Americans."

For much of its history, the Chicago Defender was based on the South Side. The paper was founded in 1905 by Robert Abbott, who ran the weekly out of his landlady's kitchen. As the paper grew, it was housed in a former synagogue in Bronzeville at 3435 S. Indiana Ave., and eventually landed at 2410 S. Michigan Ave., where it remained for more than 40 years.

John Sengstacke, Abbott's nephew, took over the paper in 1940 and eventually turned it into a daily.

At one point, the Defender was the most prominent black newspaper in the country. It even helped spur the Great Migration, which built up Bronzeville.

But in 2005, the publication's owners moved the Defender to 200 S. Michigan Ave. because it was under pressure to vacate its longtime home, House said.

"The move downtown was traumatic," House said. "No. 1, people didn't see us and they didn't know where we were.

"They saw the old building boarded up and thought we were out of business."

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