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Chicago Defender Archives

Finding Aid: Chicago Defender Archives
Repository: The Chicago Defender

From 1942-45, Lena Horne frequently entertained American soldiers in camps along the West Coast and throughout the South. She also appeared on Armed Forces Radio Service programs such as Jubilee, G.I. Journal, and Command Performances. However, in January 1945, Horne quit the USO tour after officers at a camp in Little Rock, Arkansas, allowed Nazi war prisoners to see her performance while denying African-American soldiers the same privilege.

The Chicago Defender photograph collection includes thousands of photographs such as this one, spanning the years from the 1940s to the present. Highlights include extensive documentation of the Civil Rights movement, particularly the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP; over one thousand images of Jesse Jackson documenting his career between the 1960s and the 2000s; approximately three hundred images of Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago; and files for fifty-two Chicago aldermen created between the 1940s and the 1990s.

The collection is also particularly rich in the fields of arts and entertainment, from 250 images of Lena Horne produced in the 1950s to forty images of Lou Rawls produced between the 1960s and 1980s. Other prominently represented figures include Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Bill Cosby.

The collection includes approximately 200 photographs related to the murder of Emmett Till. The images include a portrait of Carolyn Bryant, a picture of Simeon Wright (a cousin of Emmett Till), Emmett Till's unmade bed at Mose Wright's house, Emmett Till's casket arriving in Chicago, scenes at Till's funeral, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam with their young sons and the whistle stop train station in Money, Mississippi. There are also a number of photographs of courtroom scenes during the trial.

Selected Artifacts

(l to r) Chicago Defender publisher John H. Sengstacke, his older brother Whittier Sengstacke, and Louis Martin, John Sengstacke's Hampton classmate, a Defender contributor, and later an advisor to President Lyndon B.  Johnson, ca. 1940. (l to r) Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, and Pearl Bailey, stars of the 1954 film version of Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones, an adaptation of the George Bizet's opera Carmen. Sammy Davis Jr. and Nat King Cole, ca. 1955. Starting in 1929, the Chicago Defender began hosting an annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic on the South Side of Chicago. Duke Ellington was a frequent entertainer at the parade, appearing numerous times over a period of thirty years.  This photograph was likely taken on August 1, 1959, when Ellington greeted more than 500,000 spectators as the headline act of the 30th annual parade. (l to r) James Baldwin, Chicago Urban League Executive Director Edwin 'Bill' Berry, Doris Blueitt, and Urban League board member Hank Schwab at a 1963 dinner in Baldwin's honor for the benefit of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (4th from left) with leading African American politicians, including Ralph Metcalfe (5th from left), Charles Chew (r) and Alderman Benjamin F. Lewis (3rd from left), who was murdered two days after being re-elected in 1963. The first Greek-lettered sorority established and incorporated by African-American college women, AKA was founded at Howard University in 1908; a second chapter was founded at the University of Chicago in 1913.  There are currently more than 900 chapters in the United States, all of which aim to improve social and economic conditions through community service initiatives and programs.  This photograph was taken at a demonstration in Chicago, ca.  1970s. Marvin Gaye joins Reverend Jesse Jackson at the Pro Bowl Football game in Los Angeles, ca. 1970.  Gaye had recently headlined at Jackson's Black Expo in Chicago (in 1969). A young Jesse Jackson with his family, ca. 1974. Harold Washington, mayor of Chicago, introduces a young Oprah Winfrey as keynote speaker for the Illinois Leadership Conference on Drug Abuse at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 1986. A candid shot of Chicago mayor Harold Washington, ca. 1985. Chicago mayor Harold Washington comforts Friar George Clements at the scene of the famous Holy Angels Church fire in 1986. Gwendolyn Brooks, likely receiving one of her more than seventy-five honorary degrees, ca.  1980s.

Images and credits.

The Chicago Defender Archives Individuals Files and the Chicago Defender Archives Organizations Files were produced by Mapping The Stacks.

All the images on this page and described in these finding aids are owned by the Chicago Defender. Visit the Chicago Defender Archives to learn more about acquiring copies of these images.