August 08, 2005

Publishing pioneer John H. Johnson, 1918-2005

John H. Johnson, the man behind the Ebony/Jet publishing empire, died today at the age of 87. Further details have not been made available.

Publisher John H. Johnson, whose Ebony and Jet magazines countered stereotypical coverage of blacks after World War II and turned him into one of the most influential black leaders in America, died Monday, his company said. He was 87.

Born into an impoverished family in Arkansas, Johnson went into business with a $500 loan secured by his mother's furniture and built a publishing and cosmetics empire.

Johnson built Ebony from a circulation of 25,000 on its first press run in November 1945 to a monthly circulation of 1.9 million in 1997. Jet magazine, a weekly, was founded in 1951 and a third magazine, Ebony Man, a monthly men's magazine, was started in 1985.

Johnson launched Ebony just after World War II, as black soldiers were returning home. At the time there were no black players in major league baseball and little black political representation.

With blacks' incomes far below white Americans, the idea of a black publishing company was widely dismissed. Civil rights leader Roy Wilkins advised Johnson to forget the publishing business and save himself a lot of disappointment; Wilkins later acknowledged he gave Johnson bad advice.

Johnson later expanded into other magazines, and ultimately television production and book publishing with his Chicago-based company Johnson Publishing Co.

Johnson's example set the pace for many black businessmen to follow. I'm thankful for Johnson's work and his pioneering spirit.

Thank you, Mr. Johnson. God bless you.

Posted by mhking at August 8, 2005 08:16 PM | TrackBack

A true American hero.

Posted by: Curtis at August 9, 2005 09:09 AM
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