Robert Sengstacke Abbott (24 Nov 1870 – 29 Feb 1940), an African American, was a lawyer, newspaper publisher, and an early adherent of the Bahá’í religion in the United States. Abbott is the founder of The Chicago Defender newspaper which grew to have the highest circulation of any black-owned newspaper in the country. In 1929 he founded the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, a social organization which developed in Chicago as a celebration of African-American culture.
Robert Sengstacke Abbott, LLB (1870–1940), in his role as founder and editor of The Chicago Defender, gave widespread publicity to Baha’i race relations ideals and efforts to counter America’s racial crisis by addressing its root causes, welling up from the deep-seated racial animosities and disparities that persisted in the aftermath of American slavery and institutionalized by Jim Crow laws. Alain Leroy Locke, PhD (1885–1954) promoted ideal race relations, both nationally and internationally, and was directly involved in the Baha’i ‘Race Amity’ movement. Ironically, despite their common cause and the fact that both were adherents of the Baha’i religion, Locke and Abbott moved in different professional circles and social worlds, and had little contact with each other.
Mapping The Stacks
A Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives
 Baha’i Studies Review, Volume 17 © Intellect Ltd 2011 Article. English language. doi: 10.1386/bsr.17.3/1. The Baha’i ‘Race Amity’ Movement and the Black Intelligentsia in Jim Crow America: Alain Locke and Robert S. Abbott. By Christopher Buck, Pennsylvania State University
Chicago Public Library
1956 Bud Billiken Parade
Harry S. Truman, John H. Sengstacke (R. Abbott’s son) and Richard J. Daley at the 1956 Bud Billiken parade. The parade was first held in 1929 and was named after the fictional editor of the Defender’s children’s section. Children could apply to be members of the Bud Billiken club, and editors took turns writing Billiken’s weekly column. Novelist Willard Motley served as the voice of Bud Billiken as a teenager. When David Kellum became editor of the Billiken page in 1927, he, along with Abbott and Lucius Harper, developed the idea for an annual Defender-sponsored parade. The first annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic took place in 1929. By mid-century the annual parade was one of the largest gatherings of African Americans in the United States. -UIC Special Collections and University Archives
John Sengstacke inherited the papers of Robert Sengstacke Abbott upon Abbott’s death in 1940. Beginning in the 1940s, he separated many of Abbott’s papers and some of his own papers and housed them in a location apart from the files of the Chicago Defender. After the Defender moved to 2400 South Michigan Avenue, John Sengstacke housed the materials in the building’s “tower,” in space to which only he controlled access. Those separately housed papers, both Abbott’s and John Sengstacke’s, were willed to Robert A. Sengstacke upon John Sengstacke’s death in 1997. The inventory of John Sengstacke’s assets listed these archival materials separately, and the probate judgment awarded them to Robert A. Sengstacke. He inherited the papers of Myrtle Sengstacke separately after her death in 1990. On May 30, 2007, Robert A. Sengstacke donated the family papers to the Chicago Public Library.
Find A Grave Memorial
Robert Sengstacke Abbott
Robert Sengstacke Abbott Family Home
4900 S Martin Luther King Dr, Chicago, IL 60615, USA
Robert S. Abbott House
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark