The Chicago Defender, the influential African American newspaper that has told the stories of black residents of Chicago and beyond for the last 114 years, has ceased printing and moved to a digital-only format.
The storied African American newspaper’s final print edition went out on July 10, and it became completely digital the next day, according to the Defender’s website.
Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of the newspaper’s owner Real Times Media, said in a statement the company understands this digital “rite of passage” will be painful for loyal readers of the paper. But he said adopting a new distribution model “makes business sense in this digital age.”
The Defender published as both a weekly and a daily during its long history. As a digital publication, the newspaper’s website will be updated daily, the Defender’s website said.
Robert Sengstacke Abbott founded the Chicago Defender in 1905 in the kitchen of his landlord’s apartment, according to the Defender. In the early 1900s, the paper played a large role in the Great Migration during which where millions of black families from the south moved north. The Defender published editorials, articles and cartoons describing the benefits of moving north. The paper also posted job listings and train schedules to expedite the migration.
As a result of the Defender’s campaign, the black population in Chicago tripled between 1916 and 1918, according to the paper’s website.
Civil Rights activist and author Timuel Black told CNN affiliate WBBM-TV his family was among the millions of black families to migrate north because of the Defender.
“The paper said, ‘Come North, young man,'” he said. “Chicago was one of the most attractive of the places that they came to.”
The Defender campaigned for anti-lynching legislation as well. The paper’s children section, known as the Bud Billiken Page, led to the creation of the famous Bud Billiken Day Parade and Picnic, according to the Defender’s website.
“It was a unifying factor,” Black told WBBM. “It was an inspiration, informational paper that we looked forward to.”