May 29, 2024

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Frank L. Stanley Sr. – Founder, Publisher and Editor of The Louisville Defender Newspaper

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named Frank L. Stanley, Sr. who became a legendary journalist and publisher/editor and founder of The Louisville Defender, one of the most influential African American newspapers during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Stanley was born in Chicago, Illinois in the year of 1906, and later relocated with his mother to Louisville, Kentucky.

It was in Louisville that he attended and graduated from Central High School in the year 1925. When he enrolled in Atlanta University[1], he was very active and showcased his multitude of talents. He was the football quarterback, and he also played basketball as captain of the team. Stanley was student council president and varsity debater, but what ended up sticking with him was journalism as he was also the editor of the student newspaper[1].

After completing Atlanta University and working as a professor at Jackson State University for three years, he moved back to Louisville, Kentucky and became an English teacher and coach at the high school from which he graduated. He stopped teaching and coaching at Central High in 1933 and became the editor of The Defender after being recruited by the owner paper. It was in 1936 that Stanley Sr. purchased The Defender from the previous owner, Robert Sengstacke Abbott. Abbot was the son of formerly enslaved parents, lawyer and the African American founder of another paper called The Chicago Defender which was the Black newspaper with largest circulation in the USA at the time. Frank L Stanley’s paper became known as The Louisville Defender.

According to his second wife, he was very meticulous about his work with the Louisville Defender and just as meticulous about his appearance as far as fashion[1]. He was well dressed, and everything had to be put together just right, and the public noticed As far as work, Stanley would check in and have detailed messages for staff every morning before going into the office because everything had to be just right.

Frank L. Stanley Sr. – The Civil Rights Activist

Frank Stanley Sr. was a legendary publisher in black press during the civil rights movement, and during this time of hard work, protests and success, he was was one of the first people to raise money for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 in Alabama. He was friends with several well-known Civil Rights Leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Akirim Press

Another important part of the civil rights movement that Stanley was involved in was his assistance in drafting the law creating the human rights commission in 1960[2].It was Gov. Bert Combs who commissioned him to draft a law creating the 1960 human rights agency. Stanley and Combs were such good friends that Stanley was able to influence Gov. Combs to issue an executive order banning discrimination across the entire state of Kentucky. From there, Stanley was appointed to the human rights commission[1].

When it comes to colleges and universities, in 1950, Frank Stanley Sr. drafted the bill that integrated Kentucky’s state colleges[1], completely influencing the government’s move to integrate.

He was praised by Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, presidents of the USA, as “a leading black publisher”[1], and even the president of France and the pope met with Stanley after WW2. While there, Stanley was to study the how American troops were being segregated, by request of Truman. The result of that study paved the way for an integrated armed forces[1].

In 1963, he was the master of ceremonies for a huge event called the Emancipation Exposition featuring 180 exhibits, including an exhibit from the State Department, which lasted for four days in its 26th year[3].

The Defender Newspaper

Stanley’s newspaper, The Louisville Defender, was a source for powerful and influential African American news, and The Defender was being released during the most powerful points in the Civil Rights Movement, through sit ins to bring about change as a form a civil disobedience and protest marches and even riots.

Not only did the paper cover all things African American and political, it covered Black entertainment and hosted the Louisville Black Expo. It was during the 1974 Louisville Black Expo in Louisville Gardens that Frank L. Stanley Jr. passed away.

Frank L. StanleySr.’s Death

In 1974, October 19th, Frank L. Stanley Sr. had reportedly suddenly fell dead, and someone immediately tried to revive him, but unfortunately, he could not be resuscitated. He was only 69 years old, after having been diagnosed with a heart condition previously which had caused him to slow down his many duties.

The Louisville Defender suffered after his death, releasing far less papers. After that, the paper was sold to the Vice President of the paper, Clarence Leslie. The Louisville Defender still runs today.


He was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 1983, and he was National Newspaper Publishers Association president


  1. The Courier-Journal23 Feb 1992, Sun · Page 14
  2. The Courier-Journal 23 Feb 1992, Sun · Page 1
  3. The Courier-Journal 19 Oct 1963, Sat · Page 9