By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Funeral arrangements are pending for Robert “Bobby” Sengstacke, the son of the late Chicago Defender owner John H. Sengstacke. Bobby died at the age of 73 Tuesday at the St. Margaret Hospital in Hammond, Indiana after a lengthy illness, according to Retired Col. Eugene Scott, former publisher of the Defender.
Sengstacke, who was born on May 29, 1943, had been admitted to the St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights in the ICU. He was transferred to St. Margaret’s where he died.
“The newspaper and arts communities will be impacted by the loss of Robert who gave great contributions to the Chicago Defender” as a photographer and photojournalist, Scott said.
Sengstacke attended the University of Chicago Lab Schools, the Manument boarding school in Pennsylvania and the Howalton Day School in Chicago. He then enrolled at Hyde Park High School. Sengstacke graduated from the Central YMCA High School in 1962. Sengstacke attended Florida’s Bethune Cookman College for nearly four-years before returning home.
Having learned photography from some of Chicago’s finest photographers, Sengstacke had a collection of pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Gwendolyn Brooks and many other notables.
He wrote compositions titled, “Spiritual Grace and savior’s Day” which were included in the “We Shall Overcome” exhibit when he worked for the Nation of Islam’s “Muhammad Speaks.”
Growing up with the newspaper gave Sengstacke unique access to important events and people. Learning to shoot from Lamonte McLemore, Billy Abernathy and Bob Black of the Chicago Sun-Times in the mid-1950s, Sengstacke’s thousands of black and white photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Imamu Baraka and other well-known figures, places and events are widely published. His compositions, Spiritual Grace and Saviour’s Day, are included in the “We Shall Overcome” exhibit and are from his days as staff photographer for the Nation Of Islam’s periodical, Muhammad Speaks. His work also appears in most Black Arts Movement anthologies of the 1960s and 1970s. Widely collected and archived, Sengstacke has been recognized for his photography.
In recent years, Sengstacke has returned to the family business, joining with other family members in working with the Chicago Defender. He has been active in helping to increase the circulation of the paper, which was one of the nation’s last African American daily newspapers.
Sengstacke leaves behind a wife, Jacqueline, and three children, a son, Dominic and daughter, Jasmine. His oldest daughter, Myiti Sengstacke Rice, is chairman of the Chicago Defender Charities, which produces the annual Bud Billiken Parade.
This reported was supplemented with information from HistoryMakers, the largest audio video archives of Black achievers in America.