Born in 1870, Abbott attended Hampton Institute in Virginia and then went on to graduate from Kent Law School in 1899. In 1905, he established his newspaper The Chicago Defender.
The paper became popular for its relentless attack on racial injustice as well as the system of white supremacy as a whole. The Defender’s message became so effective that many places in the south attempted to get the paper banned. The revolutionary content served as an inspiration for all blacks in the north.
During World War 1, Abbott attempted to exercise his influence to convince southern blacks to migrate north. He managed to get railroad porters to carry his papers south and he ran articles, editorials, and cartoons about what the newspaper called “The Great Northern Migration.” This campaign resulted in more than one million blacks migrating to the north with about 100,000 of them going to Chicago.
At the height of its popularity, each paper that was sold was estimated to have been read by four to five African American’s putting its readership at over 500,000 people each week. The success of his newspaper made Abbott one of the first African American millionaires in the country. After his death in 1940, the paper continued to remain a success. The newspaper is still in circulation today.