Robert Abbott was born in Frederica, on St. Simons Island, Georgia on November 24, 1870. His parents, Flora and Thomas Abbott had both been born in slavery. His father was a butler on the Charles Stevens Plantation and his mother a hairdresser in the Savannah Theater. His father died while Abbott was still a baby and his mother moved back to Savannah, Georgia and met John Herman Henry Sengstacke. They married in 1874 and had seven children together. He raised Robert like he was his own son. Robert Abbott was a bold and determined journalist.
In 1905, Abbott founded the Chicago Defender, which became the most widely read Black newspaper in the United States. By editing and publishing this newspaper, later known as “America's Black newspaper," Abbott established himself as one of the first African-American millionaires. His paper also influenced the migration of thousands of African-Americans from the southern to the northern states. He died on February 22, 1940, from Bright’s disease, and was buried in Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island, Illinois.