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Ovie Carter

Photojournalist Ovie Carter was born on March 11, 1946 in Indianola, Mississippi to Grover and Mary Carter. Carter grew up in several different cities and attended Douglass High School in Memphis, Tennessee and John Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois before graduating from Soldan High School in St. Louis, Missouri in 1964. He went on to attend Forest Park Community College. Carter served with the U.S. Air Force and upon his discharge; Carter attended the Ray Vogue School of Photography, now the Illinois Institute of Art. Directly after graduation, Carter was hired to work at The Chicago Tribune.

In 1974, Carter traveled for nearly three months through African and India with fellow Chicago Tribune reporter William Mullen documenting the famine affecting almost half a billion people. Their journey, entitled Faces of Hunger, appeared in The Chicago Tribune as a five-part series and won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Photos from the series also won Carter the World Press Photo Contest in Amsterdam and the Overseas Press Club of America Award. In 1992, Mitch Duneier and Carter published the book Slim’s Table, based on Duneier’s Ph.D. dissertation. The two paired up again to publish Sidewalk in 2000 before Carter’s retirement in 2004.

Carter was named the Illinois Press Photographers Association’s Photographer of the Year in 1973-1974 and he has won the National Association of Black Journalists Excellence Award twice. In 2000, The Chicago Tribune honored Carter at their annual banquet for his thirty years of service. Carter also received the National Association of Black Journalists “Legends in Their Own Time” Distinguished Career award in 2004. Carter is a member of the Chicago Alliance of African American Photographers.

Ovie Carter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 26, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.035

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/26/2010

Last Name

Carter

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Calvin

Occupation
Schools

George Washington Carver Elementary School 87

Hyde Park Elementary School

John Marshall Metropolitan High School

Soldan International Studies High School

Illinois Institute of Art

Ray-Vogue College of Design

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ovie

Birth City, State, Country

Indianola

HM ID

CAR20

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

With God, all things are possible.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/11/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Southern Food

Short Description

Photojournalist Ovie Carter (1946 - ) is a Putlitzer Prize winning photojournalist, recognized for his reporting on famine in Africa and India. He worked at The Chicago Tribune for thirty-four years.

Employment

Parents' Farm

Chicago Tribune

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Muted Tones

Timing Pairs
0,0:1950,33:2468,41:3060,51:3356,56:14722,181:18959,218:19697,225:20927,236:23525,249:24890,267:25618,284:26619,301:35203,401:35567,406:40390,464:40754,473:70626,774:71058,779:73758,825:95310,960:99220,1009:99645,1015:109486,1108:109816,1114:110410,1126:116414,1176:122710,1226:124950,1270:135563,1439:136772,1458:137609,1468:143561,1550:146444,1586:147281,1596:147839,1603:154858,1647:158212,1701:159158,1713:159932,1727:170080,1835:182209,1921:182793,1931:184730,1944:185160,1950:187224,1969:189116,1991:189890,2002:205933,2110:207890,2120$0,0:18647,145:19354,153:20263,165:21879,184:27923,230:28239,235:30293,267:32410,276:33010,282:35781,297:36477,307:37956,330:38391,336:44568,450:45525,463:50910,486:52170,500:52590,506:59030,607:63620,677:67580,746:84432,866:84756,871:87419,920:88332,933:89494,953:92233,995:92565,1000:98043,1113:98541,1121:98873,1126:100367,1136:101363,1151:104434,1213:104766,1218:115318,1331:115857,1339:116319,1347:118013,1374:118860,1387:119707,1400:121170,1428:147402,1863:151292,1897:151982,1914:165420,2145:171634,2193:172591,2214:176332,2329:180856,2412:181726,2427:185293,2512:198880,2647
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ovie Carter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter describes his mother's growing up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about his father's education and his work as a farmer

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter talks about how his parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about his siblings and his father's name

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his parents' personalities and his likeness to them

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ovie Carter talks about moving from Indianola, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee to Chicago, Illinois as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter describes the neighborhood where he grew up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter describes growing up in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter describes race relations in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about two academic studies on race relations in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter describes his experience in elementary school in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter talks about working with his family on the cotton farms of Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter recalls the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his family leaving Indianola, Mississippi in the late 1950s and moving to Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter talks about blues musicians from Mississippi and the musical scene in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about B.B. King, and the Saturday night music scene in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about the role of the Church in his community in Indianola, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about growing up listening to blues music

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter describes his experience in school in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about injuring his knees as a child, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about injuring his knees as a child, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter talks about his family's move to Chicago, Illinois in 1959, and their early life there

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about attending high school in Chicago, Illinois, and then moving to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter describes his experience in high school in Chicago, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter describes his decision to go to college and his experience there

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ovie Carter talks about dropping out of college and joining the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about his experience in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about the benefits of serving in the U.S. Air Force, and his introduction to reading books

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about his decision to stay in Chicago, Illinois, after his discharge from the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter talks about his desire to go to New York City to work in theatre, and his decision to take photography classes

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about how he met his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter describes his being hired as a photojournalist at the 'Chicago Tribune' in 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter describes his being hired as a photojournalist at the 'Chicago Tribune' in 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about being the first African American photographer at the 'Chicago Tribune', and his African American colleagues

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his job as a photographer at the 'Chicago Tribune', and his decision to stay in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter recalls the riots in Chicago, Illinois, following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ovie Carter talks about his early experience as a photojournalist at the 'Chicago Tribune'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about his work for the 'Chicago Tribune' on the drug culture in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1970s, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about his work for the 'Chicago Tribune' on the drug culture in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1970s, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about the reputation of the 'Chicago Tribune'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter discusses his exhibits, and winning the Illinois Press Photographers Association's 'Photographer of the Year' award in 1972

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter describes his experience photographing famine in India and across Africa in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his trip to Africa in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter discusses his exhibit with his fellow-photographers, entitled, 'Through the Eyes of Blackness'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter talks about the black photographers he admired

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about his photography equipment

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter talks about winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and the World Press Photo Contest in 1976

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter talks about traveling across the U.S. to assess the state of Native Americans in 1976

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter talks about his divorce and how it affected him spiritually

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter talks about Mitchell Duneier's book, 'Slim's Table', a book based on a restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about the changes in race relations in the South in the late 1990s and early 2000s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about working with Mitchell Duneier on the book, 'Sidewalk'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his favorite photograph

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ovie Carter reflects upon himself as a photographer

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ovie Carter talks about adapting to digital photography

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ovie Carter describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ovie Carter reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ovie Carter reflects upon the importance of a close-knit community of African American journalists

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ovie Carter talks about his eyesight

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ovie Carter talks about his family, and his parents' pride in his career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ovie Carter talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ovie Carter describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Ovie Carter talks about his work for the 'Chicago Tribune' on the drug culture in the West Side of Chicago, Illinois in the 1970s, pt. 1
Ovie Carter talks about working with Mitchell Duneier on the book, 'Sidewalk'
Transcript
All right, so you're starting to suggest topics to your editor [at the 'Chicago Tribune'].$$I did.$$And (simultaneous)--$$I did.$$What kind of ideas did you have?$$Well, I'd say my concerns at the time were, you know, social conditions that we were experiencing as a nation. And, of course, the, the social environment that I came out of, on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois] in particular. And the drug culture was a huge problem out there even then, you know, with the people I knew, you know, relatives who had gotten caught up in it, destroyed by it and all that.$$And what was the nature of the drug problem then, was it heroin?$$Heroin.$$Yeah, okay.$$The, the heroin addiction, and the young men wanted to be pimps at the time. You know, this was when those movies were popular, blaxsploitation [film genre] and all that. So that was--that was very--a popular pursuit and ambition for a lot of young men, pimping and, and--and drug abuse was. And I could see how it was destroying the lives of the young people. So I thought, well, you know I'll take some photographs and I'll sort of, at least, bring this to the attention of our readers, you know. And I had no experience in, you know--what it meant to, to, to document a thing, you know. So I basically constructed the photographs, you know what I mean--illustrated it more than I did document it, you know what I mean. They were illustrations, but I did it in a--at the time, at least the newspaper thought so--thought that it was artfully done and, and, and well enough conceived that they decided to--and they were impressed enough that they wanted to run the pictures in the paper. And they decided to run them as an editorial, which was a first for the newspaper. They ran--they, they, they took all of the written material off the editorial page that day and just ran the photographs as the editorial. And, you know, subsequently, you know, the story was picked up by other newspapers and was featured in 'Editor & Publisher' magazine and all that. And, so that sort of began the type of, of work that I would continue to do for the newspaper.$Now in 2000, you and [Mitchell] Duneier published another book called 'Sidewalk'.$$Um-hmm.$$So tell us about 'Sidewalk'.$$Duneier, who was a law student also at the time, and he was a student at NYU [New York University]. And in that area of Greenwich Village, down there in Lower Manhattan, you would see these men--you've seen these guys who sell books on the sidewalks down there. Well, there was a--there was a C (ph.) Ordinance that made that possible for people to sell printed material as a First Amendment right--print material on the streets there without, you know, being taxed. They made it a First Amendment issue. So he would see these guys, you know, all the time there, and again, again. He's just is a keen observer of human nature. And as a--with the eye of a sociologist, he began to observe them, talk with them, and felt that he should do some research on them. And he started, you know, the research and discovered more and more about them and how, how they came to work down there, how they got their books, you know, and magazines, the kind of lifestyle that they, that they live. Many of them were drug abusers at the time and continued to do that type of work. And this type of work gave them--provided them the income that they needed to supply their--you know, their drug habits and everything without being a burden on society--without resorting to violence and stealing, you know, robbing people and things like that. So the story had a lot of rich components to it. So he had been working on it and he, you know, met some really interesting characters and then sort--then sort of developed along those lines. And there's a type of journ--sociology called participatory something or other where he has to participate as a researcher. So he was on the streets with them, you know, and all that for periods of--periods of time. And he began to talk to me about it when we were doing 'Sidewalk' I think--no, not 'Sidewalk'--but Valois [restaurant in Chicago, Illinois, where Dunieier's other book 'Slim's Table' was based]. Right after that he began to tell me about it. And so I went there to see for myself and meet some of the guys. And I hadn't spent a whole lot of time in New York before, so it was--you know, it was quite an experience especially down in, you know, the Village down there (unclear)--oh, the pace, you know, and everything. But--and I would go there for long weekends and take a little vacation time here and there. And over a period of a few years, you know, we finished the book--he finished the book and I, you know, supplied him with the photos that I had made.$$Okay, okay.

Robert Sengstacke

Photographer and heir of a distinguished African American newspaper publisher, Robert Abbott Sengstacke, popularly known as “Bobby,” was born May 29, 1943, in Chicago, Illinois. Named after the founder of the Chicago Defender, Robert Sengstacke Abbott, Bobby attended the University of Chicago Lab School, Manument boarding school in Pennsylvania and Howalton Day School in Chicago before attending Hyde Park High School. Sengstacke graduated from Central YMCA High School in 1962. Artistic and restless, he attended Florida’s Bethune Cookman College for three and a half years before returning to Chicago.

Growing up with the newspaper gave Sengstacke unique access to important events and people. Learning to shoot from Le Mont Mac Lemore, Billy Abernathy and Bob Black of the Chicago Sun-Times in the mid-1950s, Sengstacke’s thousands of black and white photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Imamu Baraka and other well-known figures, places and events were widely published. His compositions, Spiritual Grace and Saviour’s Day, are included in the “We Shall Overcome” exhibit and are from his days as staff photographer for the Nation Of Islam’s periodical, Muhammad Speaks. His work also appears in most Black Arts Movement anthologies of the 1960s and 1970s. Widely collected and archived, Sengstacke was recognized for his photography.

Sengstacke returned to the family business, joining with other family members in working with the Chicago Defender. He was active in helping to increase the circulation of the paper, which remains as one of the nation’s last African American daily newspapers.

Sengstacke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 19, 2003.

Sengstacke passed away on March 7, 2017.

Accession Number

A2003.305

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/19/2003

Last Name

Sengstacke

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Central YMCA College

Hyde Park Academy High School

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

St. Ambrose Elementary School

Howalton Day School

The Manumit School

Bethune-Cookman University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Robert (Bobby)

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

SEN01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

The Two Most Important Things In Life Are A Person And His Relationship With God, And The Second Is Money.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/29/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fruits and Vegetables

Death Date

3/7/2017

Short Description

Photojournalist Robert Sengstacke (1943 - 2017 ) is president of the Chicago Defender newspaper.

Employment

Chicago Defender

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
0,0:2870,8:10990,121:27362,362:27834,367:43992,571:60758,692:65114,746:67640,754:69208,765:71784,789:72680,799:84638,932:88848,948:89460,955:96090,1057:96498,1062:97008,1068:98130,1083:106156,1195:121966,1379:147586,1607:148074,1616:154406,1716:161376,1804:188182,2155:189625,2173:190069,2178:202220,2365:224256,2730:226472,2742:228136,2767:238120,2955:245071,3026:246501,3042:260808,3352:276619,3607:278438,3630:301160,3858:316993,4019:320700,4039:326110,4109:329578,4140:346470,4380:348190,4385$0,0:19162,264:23695,337:23979,342:25044,368:25967,385:27245,486:37088,572:37432,577:37776,582:38120,588:38808,598:39668,609:40356,615:54340,820:68130,1026:70503,1061:71407,1076:72424,1087:83456,1228:84008,1233:90102,1309:90971,1322:93736,1390:102316,1507:103149,1522:109580,1590:110198,1597:118704,1787:124398,2017:140020,2236:142900,2300:148602,2369:149334,2418:160422,2537:168880,2600
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Sengstacke's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke lists he favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his mother and her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his German relatives, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his German relatives, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke explains his father's relationship to Chicago Defender founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the family of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Sengstacke shares a story about Robert Sengstacke Abbott's motivation to succeed

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the book, 'The Lonely Warrior: The Life and Times of Robert S. Abbott,' by Roi Ottley

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke describes the platforms of the Chicago Defender

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke describes how the Chicago Defender was distributed in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke talks about Robert Sengstacke Abbott's relationship with orator, Roscoe Conkling Simmons

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke talks about other African American newspapers and the formation of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA)

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke describes his father's work forming Amalgamated Publishers, Inc. and the National Newspaper Publishers Association

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke talks about African American sports editors who discovered Jackie Robinson

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his father helping William L. Dawson to get elected at committeeman in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke describes the work his father and William L. Dawson did to sway African American voters to the Democratic Party

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his father and William L. Dawson helping African Americans attend President Harry S. Truman's inaugural ball

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his father's involvement in the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces in 1948

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke describes his father's role in placing advertising into African American magazines

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the circulation of magazines and newspapers in Chicago and the Chicago Defender's success and expansion in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke talks about how his parents met

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke describes his mother

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert Sengstacke reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the Sengstacke name and becoming a well-known photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the Rosenwald Apartments and prominent African Americans on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke describes growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke talks about going to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago, Illinois and Manumit School in Bristol, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke describes his experience at Manumit School in Bristol, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his lack of stimulation in school

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke remembers an encouraging teacher and lists the different elementary schools he attended

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke describes going to Hyde Park Academy High School and Central YMCA High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the potential limitations of a traditional academic education and useful technological advancements

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke describes how he became interested in photography

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke remembers the theft of his artwork by a teacher at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke describes innovative approaches to photojournalism in the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke talks about photographing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke describes what makes his photography different from other photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke talks about working with the Nation of Islam and their newspaper, Muhammad Speaks

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his role in the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Sengstacke talks about photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke talks about photographers capturing the African American renaissance

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke describes his most sought after photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke describes his technical camera equipment, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke describes his technical camera equipment, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke talks about digital photography

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his father's management style

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his involvement in the business side of the Chicago Defender

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Sengstacke talks about the financial condition of the Chicago Defender

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Sengstacke describes the challenges of newspaper circulation and appealing to younger audiences

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Sengstacke describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert Sengstacke talks about targeting a younger audience for the Chicago Defender

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert Sengstacke talks about his daughter, Myiti Sengstacke Rice

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert Sengstacke describes the legacy of his family, the Sengstackes

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Robert Sengstacke reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Robert Sengstacke describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$5

DAStory

8$6

DATitle
Robert Sengstacke talks about the family of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender
Robert Sengstacke describes what makes his photography different from other photographers of the Civil Rights Movement
Transcript
Anyway, there was a woman named, a widow woman named [Flora] Abbott. And let me go back a little bit because the Abbott family, Robert S. [Sengstacke] Abbott, the founder of the [Chicago] Defender was born on St. Simon's Island [Georgia], which is kinda in the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia, about a hundred or so miles south of Savannah [Georgia]. And they come from what you would refer, refer to as house Negroes. Mr. Abbott's father [Thomas Abbott] was a servant in, in the mansion of a plantation owner in Savannah [Georgia]. And when he, when--after the Civil War at some point--I don't know exactly why, but he distributed a lot of his riches or his holdings to some of the slaves that were on the plantation. And Mr. Abbott's father, being a, a house servant, acquired enough to actually open up a store on St. Simon's Island. So he was born in a somewhat well-to-do family after the Civil War because they had resources. His father married a woman [Flora Butler Abbott] who came from a family of beauticians after the Civil War. And they also, mainly African American beauticians, did the hair of white folks and back in that period. And so he, he married into a family that also had resources, so they weren't necessarily rich, but they, they were more well-to-do than the average African American shortly after slavery. So anyway, Mr. Abbott's father died while he was still fairly young. And this is where--now the other--oh, the other thing was he, after he died--the Abbott family, they were, I guess somewhat bougie [bourgeois], and had this superior kind of attitude, even over the mother who was a beautician and didn't have, you know, came from a family with some, some degree of resources. They were trying to take the son away from her, and this was about the time that my great-grandfather [John Herman Henry Sengstacke] arrived over here. And while he was dealing with the estate of his father [Herman Henry Sengstacke], they met. And somewhere along the line, they met, and he was able to assist her in going to court and helping her keep this child. And they, in the process, fell in love and married, okay. Then that's--from that union, my grandfather [Herman Alexander Sengstacke] was born. My father's [John H. Sengstacke] father and so, Mr. Abbott and my grandfather were half-brothers. And as I said, they were both raised in a printing family, and my father was raised in a printing and publishing family. And I am actually fifth--let's see, I think fifth generation printing, fourth generation in publishing. And they both went to Hampton [Institute, later Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia] to study printing. Of course, Mr. Abbott, as I said, he got a--went to law school, and first published--I mean, first practiced law in Gary, Indiana, and later decided to publish his--moved to Chicago [Illinois] and he published the Chicago Defender--as I'm told, to help the suffering masses of his people. And he started the Chicago Defender.$$That's in 1905, right?$$Nineteen [zer]o five [1905] and he started out with a--what I understand, a typewriter and in a woman's kitchen, whose name was Wimp [sic. Henrietta Lee]. And I don't know if you know the Wimp family (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, the Wimps in Chicago that--$$You know, opened McDonald's and so forth.$$Um-hm, right.$$That was his [Edward D. Wimp Jr.] grandmother. And she provided the first--in other words, the Defender was started in her kitchen. And he had--from what I understand, he had twenty-five cents, a typewriter. And how he was able to get it published, he sold it himself on the street. And I understand that's one of the reasons they said he had ill health was being out there in the early days, in the winter and what-not. And actually, the Defender grew into what it, you know, became. And so, on the other hand, my father, of course, he used to come up here during the summers and work with Mr. Abbott. And he studied printing, but he had a degree in business management. And he always used to say, and if there's any regret, I never asked him why, that when people would ask him questions, he would say, "Well, I never really wanted to go into the Defender business. I'm going to run the Defender, but Mr. Abbott became ill, and I was the only one in the family at that time." He was the oldest son qualified to take over.$The other thing that makes my work for the civil rights era strong is the fact that when I did cover, like Selma to Montgomery [March], and some of the other marches here in Chicago [Illinois], our family also had weekly newspapers. And a lot of the mass marches usually were held on a Saturday so people could get off, come in. And I knew that, even then, like the television would have the front line of march and the speakers, and all that on television that night. And the white newspapers would have it on the front page the next morning and Sunday papers, 'cause even back then, there was technology where photographers with the New York Times or some of the major papers would go and take a hotel room, turn it into a dark room, process right there, and could go on a telephone line, and transfer photos. So, what would--what was going to be interesting to the Sengstacke [Enterprises, Inc. later, Real Times Media LLC] newspaper readers that--of the weeklies, it came out Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So, my work focuses a lot more on who was there, who was behind the front line, you know, [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther] King [Jr.], [Ralph] Abernathy, A. Philip Randolph, and Ralph Bunche. And so, that's why, even though the way I photographed King, I'm known as the only photographer that captured the essence of his character and personality. And these are what photo researchers say--it's not what I say. And I've heard that many, many times. But the--a lot of the popular photos I have aren't of people who were in the march. And it brings that home because most people were trying to satisfy the Sunday front page of the New York Times, the [Chicago] Tribune, the, you know (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Is it there, they were just trying to document that there was a march--$$Yeah.$$--so they want a big picture of them, of all the people? Yeah (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Right. And they wanted--the white papers wanted to go, go into the kind of stuff that I shot.$$To who the personalities are and what the--$$Yeah, and see, that's what I show. And also, people on the sidelines who aren't in the march, you know. So I caught, I caught more of the true essence because, I mean, yeah, King was there, and it would--but what about the 200,000 people, 250,000 people behind him, with 175,000 that walked behind him, see. And my work encompasses that, and that's another reason that as time goes on, it becomes more significant and valuable, you know. So, I guess that it wasn't where so much as where I shot him, but what I did when I had the opportunities--