It is with a heavy heart that the Chicago Defender announces the passing of former Chicago Defender editor, Robert A. Sengstacke at 73. Newspapers and news outlets in every community throughout the nation are mourning the loss of their beloved colleague. Sengstacke, son of the legendary John Sengstacke, the owner and publisher of the Chicago Defender and founder of the National Newspaper Publishers Association had close ties with the Michigan Chronicle and the new Pittsburgh Courier all iconic brands who have been nationally recognized for providing readers with relevant and compelling local coverage from a black perspective.
Robert A. Sengstacke, an award-winning photojournalist and one of America’s foremost photographic artists passed away on March 7, 2017 after a long illness. Sengstacke has captured the famous and the infamous, the saint and the sinner, kings and the common man. His photographs and profiles have appeared in LIFE, Ebony, Jet, Essence, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Houston Post, The Chicago Tribune and Spike Lee’s School Daze as well as his photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King that was featured on the set of Patti LaBelle’s TV sitcom “Out All Night.”
Born in Chicago, he was the second child of three sons born to John and Myrtle Sengstacke. Robert’s father, John H.H. Sengstacke was the owner and publisher of the Chicago Defender Newspaper, and he was the grand-nephew and namesake of the newspaper’s founder, Robert Sengstacke Abbott.
In following his family’s legacy, he would become the Chicago Defender’s head photographer and editor, Muhammad Speaks first non-Muslim staff photographer; Artist-in-residence at Fisk University; General Manager and Publisher of the Memphis Tri-State Defender; Photo assignments for Eastman-Kodak Co., and photographer for the Phil Donahue Show. He later served as President of Sengstacke Newspapers and a former editor of the Chicago Daily Defender.
As a prominent photographer, his works featuring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have been displayed at the Statue of Liberty, in addition to being displayed at the renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Other institutions such as Stanford University, The Smithsonian Institution; The DuSable Museum of African American History, The Museum of Science of Industry, Spellman College, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Circle Campus the University of Illinois Urbana campus and the University of Minnesota, among many others.
Sengstacke also maintained a video production company that produced over 50 mini-documentaries.
He is survived by his wife, Jacquelyn Sengstacke and their two children, Domenic and Jasmine, his first wife, VeeLa Sengstacke-Gonzales and their children Myiti, Omhari and Hasani. Their oldest son, Saief made his transition in 2009. His daughter-in-law Shantella, his grandchildren, Imani, Malahni and Montrel and a host of loving family members and close friends.
This article will be updated as more information on Mr. Sengstacke’s homegoing services are available.