Sengstacke was born November 25, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. He was singled out by his uncle, Robert S. Abbott, publisher of The Chicago Defender, and trained as his successor. Abbott financed his nephew’s education at Hampton Institute, where he graduated in 1934.
Abbott also subsidized his studies at the Mergenthaler Linotype School, The Chicago School of Printing, Northwestern University, and Ohio State University.Â In 1934 Sengstacke became Vice President and General Manager of The Robert S. Abbott Publishing Company, and served as its president, following Robert S. Abbott’s death in 1940.Â
He founded The National Newspaper Association in 1940, and served as its president for seven terms. The organization was established to unify African American newspaper publishers and currently has over 200 members. He started the Chicago Daily Defender in 1956.
Sengstacke’s contributions extended beyond the publishing world. He was involved in community service work in Illinois, and received several Presidential Appointments during the Administrations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson. He served as the editor-publisher of The Chicago Daily Defender until his death on May 28, 1997, at the age of 84.