Remembering the Chicago Defender’s Influence

Noted African-American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, announced earlier this summer that it will cease print production. The weekly paper, founded in 1905, played a crucial role in providing news for scores of migrating African-Americans. With the rise of industrialization, job creation and seeking greater opportunities than in the South, migrants relocated to the North, especially Chicago. The Defender was a resource for establishing black political, social and cultural roots in the city.

A notable number of reporters and editors interviewed for the Oral History Archives’ Black Journalists Collection reflect on the Chicago Defender’s role in their training and influence in creating a black press in American communities.

Panel from Bungleton Green, which ran in the Chicago Defender

Blacks in urban centers used newspapers like the Defender to acclimate to cities and new social mores. One feature newspapers used to convey etiquette and ethics for city living was the cartoon Bungleton Green.

New to the North and confounded by the city’s ways (“green” or a “greenhorn” to those habits), Bungleton quite literally bungled his way through urban mishaps. Far from stupid, Bung, as he was called in the comics, simply had a lot to learn about being an urbane citizen.

At least four Defender cartoonists worked on this staple of the newspaper. In this clip, Mr. Chester describes how he came to draw Bungleton Green, noting that he, too, was green to drawing a strip that was both humorous and political.

Visit the Oral History Archive at Columbia located in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library to review the Black Journalist Oral History Collection transcripts.