CHICAGO (WLS) –Founded on May 5, 1905, by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, the Chicago Defender was a platform to denounce racism experienced by African Americans.”His driving concern was changing the lives of black people in the Deep South,” says Cheryl Mainor, president and publisher of the newspaper.
The Defender became a driving force of the Great Migration, carrying stories of economic prosperity for blacks in the North. It had to be smuggled into the South and anyone caught with it faced grave danger.
“It could be anywhere from a lynching, to a beating, to something else nefarious that happened to you or your family,” Mainor says. The Chicago Defender is one of 200 national papers that make up the Black Press.
The weekly publication has 5,000 print subscribers and roughly 16,000 copies are sold on newsstands.
The paper has also embraced social media to compete with the 24-hour news cycle.
“How do you stay relevant when the news changes every other minute, and everybody knows it,” Mainor says.
Mainor says the paper has built quite a legacy over the past 110 years, covering issues of importance to the black community. And with renewed discussions about race and police violence taking center stage, the Defender has once again positioned itself to be a leading voice for change.
“These incidences have gone on forever,” she says. “They never didn’t exist.”
Mary Datcher, the senior staff writer says the historical significance of the Defender makes it an honor to work there.
“It’s a great feeling to be a part of that, 110 years later,” Datcher says. “We are here for the community. Community first.”