Robert Sengstacke Abbott was born in Fredericka, Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia. His parents-Thomas, his father; and Flora, his mother-were both former slaves who worked in agriculture. As a youngster, Abbott became interested in the situation of African Americans when his stepfather, John Hermann Henry Sengstacke, encouraged him to consider the plight of former slaves. Abbott had to struggle to get an education. During his time in law school, he reinvented himself by taking Sengstacke’s surname as his own middle name and concentrating on the practice of law.