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Johnson Publishing Company clipping files collection

Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0098


  • Creation: 1940-2010


Historical note

Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) is the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. The Company is based in Chicago, Illinois. It is the largest African-American owned publishing company in the United States, and also owns Fashion Fair Cosmetics. The company hosts the Ebony Fashion Fair and has produced books and films.

The Company was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson, a Chicago businessman and publisher. Johnson found early success in the publishing world with Negro Digest (later known as Black World). Although it was patterned after Reader’s Digest, Johnson’s publication reproduced whole articles by and about African-Americans, rather than just short-form digest versions. Negro Digest was enormously successful, allowing Johnson to begin publication of Ebony and Jet, the popularity of which contributed to the demise of his initial periodical.

Ebony is a monthly magazine that has been published since 1945. Jet is a general interest magazine, published weekly since 1951 in a small digest format.

Both publications were designed to fill a gap in American publishing: there were no general interest publications for African-Americans at the time, and African-Americans were frequently portrayed in a negative or stereotypical light in the mainstream press. As Negro Digest was patterned after Reader’s Digest, Ebony was patterned after LIFE, featuring primarily pictorial coverage of African-American politics, culture, celebrities, and other public figures. Jet became known for in depth coverage of issues that effected African-Americans, particularly race relations. Jet closely covered the Civil Rights Movement from its earliest days, and became notorious in 1955 for the controversial decision to publish photographs from the funeral of Emmett Till, showing the brutalized body of Till in an open casket.

Throughout his life, Johnson remained involved in the publication of his magazines and in the African-American business community. He was Chairman for the Supreme Life Insurance Company, and served on the Board of Directors for many corporations. At various times Johnson served as a special ambassador from the United States. He received wide recognition for his service, including the NAACP Springarm Medal in 1966 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. His autobiography, Succeeding Against the Odds, was published in 1993. Johnson died in 2005.

Johnson’s wife, Eunice W. Johnson, worked closely with her husband in both the publishing and cosmetics businesses. She served as a fashion editor for Ebony, and founded the Ebony Fashion Fair, a charitable traveling fashion show. She died in 2010.

In 2008, back issues of both Ebony and Jet were scanned as a part of the Google Books project and are available online. Johnson Publishing Company is still headquartered in Chicago, and John and Eunice’s daughter Linda Johnson Rice still serves as Chairwoman. Ebony and Jet remain popular magazines, with a combined readership of over 20 million. Since 2011, JPMorgan Chase has held a financial stake in the company.


233 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into three series: People; Obituaries; and Subjects. All files in the People and Subjects series are arranged alphabetically. Obituaries are arranged chronologically.

Johnson Publishing Company clipping files collection, 1940-2012
In Progress
Finding aid prepared by Courtney Chartier and Allison Galloup.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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