Ebony (magazine)

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Ebony
EbonyMagazine.jpg
60th anniversary cover with actors Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx, November 2005
Former editors
  • Tracey Ferguson
  • Kyra Kyles
  • Kierna Mayo
  • Amy DuBois Barnett
  • Bryan Monroe
Categories Lifestyle magazine
FrequencyMonthly
Total circulation
(2017)
1,333,421 [1]
Founder John H. Johnson
First issueNovember 1, 1945;75 years ago (1945-11-01) [2]
CompanyEbony Media Operations, LLC
(2016–present)
Johnson Publishing Company
(1945–2016)
CountryUnited States
Based in Los Angeles, California, U.S. [3]
(2017–present)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
(1945–2017)
LanguageEnglish
Website ebony.com
ISSN 0012-9011

Ebony is a monthly magazine that focuses on news, culture, and entertainment. Its target audience is the African-American community, and its coverage includes the lifestyles and accomplishments of influential black people, fashion, beauty, and politics. [4] [5]

Contents

Ebony magazine was founded in 1945 by John H. Johnson, who sought to address African-American issues, personalities and interests in a positive and self-affirming manner. [6] Its cover photography typically showcases prominent African-American public figures, including entertainers and politicians, such as Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, U.S. First lady Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Tyrese Gibson, and Tyler Perry. Each year, Ebony selects the "100 Most Influential Blacks in America". [7]

After 71 years, in June 2016, Johnson Publishing sold both Ebony and Jet , another Johnson publication, to a private equity firm called Clear View Group. The new publisher is known as Ebony Media Corporation. [8] [9] After the publication went bankrupt in July 2020, it was purchased for $14 million by Junior Bridgeman in December 2020.

History

1945–1969

Ebony was founded by John H. Johnson in 1945. The magazine was named by Johnson's wife, Eunice Walker Johnson, thinking of the dark wood. [10] The magazine was patterned after the format of Life magazine. [11] Ebony published its first issue on November 1, 1945, with an initial press run of 25,000 copies that sold out completely. [12] Ebony's earlier content focused on African-American sports and entertainment figures, but eventually began including black achievers and celebrities of many different professions. [13]

Blanche J. Lawrence, "Atom Scientists", Ebony magazine, September 1949 (Copyright not renewed) Blanche-j-lawrence ebony February 1949.png
Blanche J. Lawrence, "Atom Scientists", Ebony magazine, September 1949 (Copyright not renewed)

Editors stated in the first issue:

We like to look at the zesty side of life. Sure, you can get all hot and bothered about the race question (and don't think we don't), but not enough is said about all the swell things we Negroes can do and will accomplish. Ebony will try to mirror the happier side of Negro life - the positive, everyday achievements from Harlem to Hollywood. But when we talk about race as the No. 1 problem of America, we'll talk turkey. [14]

During the 1960s, the magazine increasingly covered the civil rights movement. Articles were published about political events happening all over the U.S. where activists protested racial violence and advocated for increasing social mobility for African Americans across the diaspora. Also published was content about the Black Power movement. In 1965, executive editor Lerone Bennett Jr. wrote a recurring column entitled Black Power, which featured an in-depth profile of Stokely Carmichael in 1966. [15] Ebony also commemorated historical events that contributed to black citizenship and freedom such as the September 1963 issue that honored the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. [16]

1969–1985

Ebony's design and content began to shift in the late–1960s and early–1970s. A new level of competition for subscribers and readers began during the 1970s. Due to the emergence of new African-American oriented magazines such as Essence,Ebony began to cover more political activism and achievements in the 1970s. The magazine's February 1971 cover featured 13 black congressmen and women. Ebony highlighted the black professionals serving in Jimmy Carter's administration in the March 1977 issue. [17]

1985–2005

The magazine reached unprecedented levels of popularity, with marketers estimating that Ebony reached over 40% of the African-American adults in the United States during the 1980s, a feat unmatched by any other general–interest magazine at the time. [18] Beginning in the mid–1970s, advertisers created customized ads for the magazine which featured African-American models using their products. [19] In 1985, Ebony Man, a monthly men's magazine was created, printing the first issue in September 1985. [5] By Ebony's 40th anniversary in November 1985, it had a circulation of 1.7 million. [14]

2005–present

In December 2008, Google announced that it was scanning back issues for Google Book Search. As of that date, all issues from November 1959 to December 2008 were made available for free. [20] In 2010, the Johnson Publishing Company sold its historic building at 820 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago's loop to Columbia College Chicago. The same year, Ebony was redesigned to update its longtime brand. In the past, the magazine was persistently upbeat, much like its postwar contemporary Life magazine. However, in the 21st century, Ebony featured more controversial content.

The November 2011 cover featured a pregnant Nia Long, reminiscent of the iconic image of actress Demi Moore portrayed naked while pregnant on a major magazine cover two decades before. Some of Ebony′s more conservative readers objected to the cover, stating it was inappropriate to feature an unwed, pregnant woman on the cover. The cover made national headlines in US Weekly and in a five-minute segment on CNN. More recent issues questioned whether President Obama was still right for black America and whether biracial Americans need more acknowledgment in today's society. In 2018, Ebony's publishing schedule was changed from being published monthly to a double issue published once each month. On May 24, 2019, Clear View Group suspended the print edition of the magazine, with the Spring 2019 issue the last to be printed. [21] [22]

In March 2021, the magazine relaunched in digital format. [23] [24]

Notable coverage

100 Most Influential Blacks

One of the most famous aspects of the magazine was its list of "100 Most Influential Blacks". This list—which began in 1963, took a hiatus until 1971, and has continued on ever since—lists those who have made the greatest impact in the African-American community during the year. Most of those listed were well-educated, with 55 percent having completed a graduate degree. [25] However, some researchers have noted that black scholars, teachers, and higher-education administrators are rarely, if ever, included on the list. [26] [27] The list exclusively focuses on entertainment figures, politicians, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs. [28]

Coolest Black Family in America

In 2018, the magazine published a series highlighting Black families from across the United States with the intention of showcasing Black family dynamics. [29]

25 Coolest Brothers of All Time

In August 2008, the magazine had published a special eight-cover edition featuring the "25 Coolest Brothers of All Time". The lineup featured popular figures like Jay-Z, Barack Obama, Prince, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Marvin Gaye, Muhammad Ali and Billy Dee Williams. [30]

65th anniversary edition

In November 2010, the magazine featured a special 65th-anniversary edition cover featuring Taraji P. Henson, Samuel L. Jackson, Usher and Mary J. Blige. The issue included eight cover recreations from historic and iconic previous covers of Ebony. Blair Underwood posed inside, as did Omar Epps and Jurnee Smollett. National Public Radio marked this anniversary edition as the beginning of redesign of Ebony. Former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers, of the Obama administration, had become the chief executive officer of the magazine. [31]

Ownership

In 2016, Johnson Publishing Company sold the magazine along with Jet to private equity firm Clear View Group. [32] [33] [34] [35] In May 2017, the editorial staff for the magazine moved from Chicago to Los Angeles along with the editorial staff for Jet magazine. [36] In December 2020, The magazine and its sister publication Jet [ citation needed ] was purchased for $14 million by Junior Bridgeman. [37]

Ensuing financial difficulties

In July 2019, three months after Johnson Publishing Company filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy liquidation, it sold its historic photo archives including the prints and negatives to a consortium of foundations to be made available to the public. [38] [39] After suspending the print edition of the magazine in May 2019, Clear View Group and Ebony Media Operations laid off the majority of the editing staff in June 2019. [40] [41]

Lawsuits

In 2017, 50 freelance writers created a social media campaign #EbonyOwes due to not being paid by the magazines' current owner, Clear View Group. [22] In response to the campaign, Clear View Group made an effort to pay 11 of the 50 writers $18,000, ending with only three being paid in full. In late 2017, the remaining writers with the help of The National Writers Union filed suit against Clear View Group and Ebony Media Operations. [21]

The remaining writers settled their lawsuit with the company in February 2018. The magazine owners were ordered to pay $80,000 [42] Ebony Media Operations, Clear View Group and the National Writers Union agreed that all unpaid invoices would be paid over four quarterly installments by the end of 2018. [42] In October 2018, the magazines' owner missed its third quarter payment and another lawsuit was filed in November 2018. Clear View Group made the final payment to the writers in December 2018. [21] [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

John H. Johnson

John Harold Johnson was an American businessman and publisher. Johnson was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Johnson's Ebony (1945) and Jet (1951) magazines were among the most influential African-American businesses in media beginning in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1982, Johnson became the first African American to appear on the Forbes 400. In 1987, Johnson was named Black Enterprise Entrepreneur of the year.

<i>Jet</i> (magazine) African-American weekly magazine formerly based in Chicago

Jet is an American weekly digital magazine focusing on news, culture, and entertainment related to the African-American community. Founded in November 1951 by John H. Johnson of the Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois, the magazine was billed as "The Weekly Negro News Magazine". Jet chronicled the civil rights movement from its earliest years, including the murder of Emmett Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the activities of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Era Bell Thompson

Era Bell Thompson was a graduate of the University of North Dakota (UND) and an editor of Ebony magazine. She was also a recipient of the governor of North Dakota's Roughrider Award. A multicultural center at UND is named after her.

Johnson Publishing Company

Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. (JPC) was an American publishing company founded in November 1942 by African-American businessman John H. Johnson. It was headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. JPC was privately held and run by Johnson until his death in 2005. Led by its flagship publication, Ebony, Johnson Publishing was at one time the largest African-American-owned publishing firm in the United States. JPC also published Jet, a weekly magazine, from November 1951 until June 2014, when it became digital only. In the 1980s, the company branched into film and television.

Lerone Bennett Jr.

Lerone Bennett Jr. was an African-American scholar, author and social historian who analyzed race relations in the United States. His works included Before the Mayflower (1962) and Forced into Glory (2000), a book about U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

Ulysses Lee "Junior" Bridgeman is an American businessman and former professional basketball player. Bridgeman played in the National Basketball League (NBA) for twelve years from 1975 until 1987, beginning with the Milwaukee Bucks. Bridgeman is the current owner of Ebony and Jet magazines.

Moneta Sleet Jr.

Moneta J. Sleet Jr. was an American press photographer best known for his work as a staff photographer for Ebony magazine. In 1969 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his photograph of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow, at her husband's funeral. Sleet was the first African-American man to win the Pulitzer, and the first African American to win the award for journalism. He died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 70.

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Eunice W. Johnson businessperson

Eunice Walker Johnson was an American businesswoman. Johnson was the wife of publisher John H. Johnson and an executive at Johnson Publishing Company. Johnson was the founder and director of the Ebony Fashion Fair, which began in 1958 as a hospital fundraiser and became an annual worldwide fashion tour that highlighted fashion for African-American women, running until a year before her death.

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Ebony Fashion Fair

Ebony Fashion Fair was an annual fashion event created by Eunice Johnson, co–founder of the Chicago, Illinois–based Johnson Publishing Company. The show ran across the United States and other countries from 1958 until 2009. In addition to the fashion fair, the company also created a cosmetic line named Fashion Fair Cosmetics, in 1973. As of 2017, Fashion Fair Cosmetics are still available for purchase.

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