African American Publications, African American Media, Black Media, Ebony Magazine, Jet Magazine, Essence Magazine, Johnson Publishing, KOLUMN Magazine

Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival

Pillars of Black Media, Once Vibrant, Now Fighting for Survival

SYDNEY EMBER & NICHOLAS FANDOS | THE NEW YORK TIMES

For the black community in Chicago and elsewhere, Johnson Publishing Company represented a certain kind of hope.

The company’s magazines, most notably Ebony and Jet, gained prominence during the struggle for civil rights — Jet published graphic photos of the murdered black teenager Emmett Till that helped intensify the movement — and made it their mission to chronicle African-American life.

At a time when much of the media was ignoring black people, or showing them primarily in the context of poverty or crime, Ebony and Jet celebrated their success, featuring stars like Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin on their covers. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the first print publication he granted an interview to was Ebony.



SPEAKING OF PEOPLE: EBONY, JET AND CONTEMPORARY ART
PUBLICATION – Nov. 13, 2014–March 8, 2015
Explores the ways contemporary artists use the leading African American magazines Ebony and Jet as a resource and inspiration. Published by Johnson Publishing Company for over 60 years, Ebony and Jet are important documenters of black life. As popular, widely circulated print publications, the magazines ushered in a particular phenomenon of collection and display in black domestic spaces. The original artwork in the exhibition uses the magazines’ imagery and text as source material. The exhibition catalog was designed by Bobby C. Martin Jr., Jennifer Kinon, and Michael McCaughley of OCD. I asked Martin to discuss his relationship to these magazines and his inspirations for the catalog’s design.
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So when Johnson Publishing, which is based in Chicago, announced a little more than two weeks ago that it had sold Ebony and Jet to a private equity firm in Texas, there was a sense of loss.

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