On Wednesday, July 8, the Chicago Defender hosted a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking its return to the Bronzeville community.
The new location for the 104-year-old newspaper, 4445 S. King Drive, was formerly the Metropolitan Funeral Home and owned by Chicago real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom.
This location marks the fifth home for the Defender, which was founded May 5, 1905, by Robert Abbott and then continued by his nephew John Sengstacke. The first location was on 48th and King Drive in Abbott’s apartment. Its second home was on 34th and King Drive. Then in 1956, Sengstacke moved it to 2400 S. Michigan. For the last three years, the paper was at 200 S. Michigan in downtown Chicago. In March, Real Times Media Inc., its parent company, concluded a deal to move the paper back to Bronzeville. Its new headquarters sits next to the historic Parkway Ballroom, where many important events took place in the black community.
Those attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony included Robert Sengstacke; David Miller, former Defender publisher; WVON’s Cliff Kelley, who was broadcasting live; William Picard, chairman of Real Times Inc., Rev. Jesse Jackson; and Mayor Richard M. Daley.
In speaking to the audience, Daley said, “This is an important day for the City of Chicago because the Chicago Defender is part of our great history … It was a voice for African Americans, not only here in the city but throughout the country.
“And that voice was heard continually in regards to discrimination, crimes, racial crimes in the history of this country. The Chicago Defender and others stood up. … Great writers – Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes – have written for the Chicago Defender. But most importantly, it’s been a voice for the African-American, and not just here. Pointing out the great migration of the South from 1950 to 1925. African Americans moved from the Southern states to the Northern states in search of economic opportunity. Between 1960 and 1918, more than 100,000 African Americans move to the city of Chicago … The Chicago Defender was one of main newspapers of the day to spread the word about jobs and all the opportunities here.”
Real Times CEO Hiram Jackson acknowledged all of the papers’ employees.
“No one does this alone. This is a great, great day for us – Real Times Media is the largest African American-owned media, primarily print company, largest newspaper chain that is black-owned in the country. We moved from the 17th floor at 200 S. Michigan to the heart of the community here because we just couldn’t feel in-touch. We wanted to feel and touch the people that we were communicating with. We couldn’t do it on the 17th floor. And so Mike House, Carol Bell and some of the other staff members, I said, ‘Lets go back home.’ “
Jackson then introduced the Defender’s current president, Michael House, whom he called “one of the most experienced black newspaper folks in the country.”
A former publisher of the Cleveland Post, House also worked for Ebony and Jet magazines and several other black media outlets.
“I’m a very happy individual today to be here with you to officially inaugurate our opening of our new corporate headquarters in Bronzeville,” House said. “It’s great to be back in the community; you can’t imagine the amount of support from all of the people who have come into our office. And none of this would have been possible without the support of our board.”