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Robert Sengstacke

Saviours' Day Prayer

Robert Sengstacke. Saviours’ Day Prayer, 1966. Restricted gift of John A. Bross.

Also known as
Bobby Sengstacke
Date of birth
Date of death

Robert A. “Bobby” Sengstacke spent more than a half century photographing Chicago’s cultural and political landscape, most notably for the weekly newspaper the Chicago Defender, for which he also worked as an editor. The Defender was founded by Robert’s great-uncle Robert Sengstacke Abbott in 1905, and Robert’s father, John Sengstacke, ran the paper for nearly 60 years. In the mid-1950s, after attending Florida’s Bethune Cookman College, Bobby Sengstacke returned to Chicago and honed his skills with fellow photographers Billy Abernathy, Le Mont Mac Lemore, and Bob Black. In the years that followed, he became a member of a tight-knit network of South Side photojournalists who created intimate documents of Chicago’s black community, from Civil Rights rallies led by Martin Luther King Jr. to the city’s lively entertainment scene.

Sengstacke was also a founding member of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), which brought together black artists, writers, intellectuals, and activists on Chicago’s South Side. In 1967, OBAC conceived its first collaborative public artwork—the Wall of Respect, an outdoor mural located at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The mural, created by 21 artists, featured black heroes and heroines grouped in seven sections. Sengstacke contributed two photographs to the religious section: Saviours’ Day Prayer (at the time known as Spiritual Grace) and Girls in Church. In addition to his contributions to the Wall, Sengstacke’s photographs of the mural and its creation remain the most widely published and circulated documentation of the site, which was destroyed in 1971.

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