Robert A. “Bobby” Sengstacke, photojournalist and grand-nephew of Chicago Defender Robert Abbot Sengstacke, died March 7, in Hammond, Ind. He was 73.
Sengstacke was born in Chicago and attended Hyde Park High School and University of Chicago Lab School among other institutions before becoming a student at Bethune Cookman College in Florida. Returning to Chicago, he became a photographer for the newspaper his great-uncle founded, turning a childhood interest in photography into a life-long career.
Working for not only the Defender but other Chicago newspapers, Sengstacke honed his craft with some of the city’s top photographers and gained recognition as one of the civil rights movement’s greatest chroniclers. The first non-Muslim photographer to work for the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Speaks, his work also appeared in Life, Ebony, The New York Times and many other national publications. His work has been widely displayed in such place as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the DuSable Museum of African American History and the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture.
He returned to The Defender after the death of his great-uncle, eventually assuming the role of President of Sengstacke Newspapers and Editor of the Chicago Daily Defender. He also founded and ran a video production company and was active in promoting Black culture and in advocating for civil rights.
Sengstacke was known not just for his portraits of prominent African-Americans such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. but for exploring the lives of working-class people and their struggles. He is remembered for his generosity to young photographers and his commitment to the African-American community.
Memorial Services for Sengstacke will take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Logan Center of the Arts – University of Chicago Campus, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago, Illinois, 60637.
In Lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the Chicago Defender Charities, Inc., 700 E. Oakwood Blvd. 5th Floor Chicago Illinois, 60653 “In honor of Robert A. Sengstacke.”