Robert Abbott First Afro American Millionaire

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 4.03.02 PMRobert Abbott graduated from Hampton Institute with a law degree. Despite being an attorney Abbott was unable to find viable employment as a lawyer because of his race.  In 1905 Abbott founded the Chicago Defender. The Chicago Defender was a weekly newspaper that came to dominate Chicago's black press. The Defender became one of the country's most important newspapers. The Chicago Defender benefitted greatly from the Great Migration of blacks leaving the south for better wages in the north. Circulation reached 50,000 by 1916; 125,000 by 1918; and more than 200,000 by the early 1920s—overall readership tripled those figures. Some two-thirds of this national publication's sales were beyond Chicago. Abbott's newspaper included largely celebratory political, social, and entertainment reporting on Bronzeville (black Chicago's nickname); mostly grim racial news from the South; exhortations to newcomers for upright conduct in the face of freedom's temptations; personal announcements from readers; employment and other classifieds; and often militant editorials for racial equality—presented with sensationalism in the style of the media giant William Randolph Hearst. Abbott urged blacks to fight for equality. He banned the terms negro and colored as undignified; instead, the Defender consistently used the phrase the Race.

The newspaper's success made Abbott an important figure locally and nationally. In the wake of racial violence in 1919, the Illinois governor named Abbott to the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, which later authored a landmark report in 1922 on African American urban conditions. Through publishing he became one of the earliest African American millionaires and a black folk hero, embodying self-help and entrepreneurship in the mold of fellow Hamptonian Booker T. Washington.
The Defender also contributed broadly to the development of a national African American culture.  Langston Hughes was a longtime columnist and reporter for the Chicago Defender.