Robert S. Abbott, John Sengstacke, and a New Order in Black (Male) Journalism
This chapter reinterprets the production of black newspapers as a “production” of Race men. It examines Robert S. Abbott’s efforts to groom his nephew, John Sengstacke, to succeed him during a crisis for the nation and for the paper. This crisis was the Great Depression, which presented the Defender with a number of financial challenges. Yet, focusing especially on private letters Abbott and Sengstacke exchanged between 1931 and 1934, Abbott worked to train Sengstacke to confront these challenges by teaching him to be a self-made man. Sengstacke embraced parts of Abbott’s conceptions of manhood, while also embracing conceptions coming from labor activists and Depression era racial and political organizing. Sengstacke eventually married the two and founded the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which he marketed to other members of the black press as a fraternity. With the black press organized within this masculine framework, many black newspapers worked to unite nationally to fight segregation in the armed forces and major league baseball by the 1940s.
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