The Black Media Mogul Who Changed History

6/16/2020 9:26:00 AM

John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, created his empire against all odds.

John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, created his empire against all odds. “He was a genius on every level,” says Johnson’s daughter, Linda Johnson Rice

John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, created his empire against all odds.

The Johnson Publishing Company cafeteria.The former Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree runs a company with 55 employees that hosts two conferences focused on people of color: Summit21, for women of color, and AfroTech, for black people in technology.Jenny Regan Freddie Gibbs photographed on March 13, 2019.There are no Black parents who have a son and think, “I’m going to raise him to be a criminal.

Photo: Photograph by Alexandre Georges from Arthur Elrod by Adele Cygelman, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.This article was originally published in April 2019, when the Museum of Food and Drink announced their intention of reassembling Ebony’s test kitchen.Blavity, which declined to disclose revenue, is the largest media company aimed at black millennials.When John H.Every Friday of this month, we will have an artist speak on today's climate, offer their suggestions for revision going forward, and why being Black continues to be a gift more than a curse.Johnson first launched Negro Digest in 1942, he had a hard time finding anyone in Chicago who would give a black man a loan.5 million from the likes of Comcast Ventures, GV and Plexo Capital in 2018 for a total of $11 million raised, the company is valued at more than $30 million.Yet in the years that followed, Johnson built a publishing empire that grew to include magazines like Ebony and Jet, which shaped coverage of African-American life and culture for decades.Those issues are the bottom line that no one wants to acknowledge.

In 1945, Johnson founded Ebony with the goal of reaching black readers who were looking for glamour and pizzazz — and also, as he wrote in his book, Succeeding Against the Odds, giving readers “relief from the day-to-day combat with racism.As the George Floyd uprising takes root in the U.I feel like with all of this sh--t already going on, I've just been floating through it.” Reflecting on the influence of the magazine years later, Johnson wrote, “We needed a medium to make Blacks believe in themselves, in their skin color, in their noses, in their lips, so they could hang on and fight another day … we needed a new medium — bright, sparkling, readable — that would let Black Americans know that they were part of a great heritage.” That same sensibility of glamour and pride and pizzazz could be seen throughout the Johnson Publishing Company offices.and abroad, American newsrooms are also being restructured.In the early 1970s, Johnson commissioned architect John W.Police murdered my friend in front of us in 2006.Moutoussamy — who studied with Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of technology — to build the company offices in Chicago.Forbes spoke with DeBaun about leading a black newsroom and what other news organizations can do to create more representative organizations internally and to tell more diverse stories.The most interesting thing about these numbers? They show that poverty, and not race, is the real issue when it comes to crime.

Moutoussamy designed an austere, geometrically rigorous 11-story building made of concrete, marble, and glass — the first building designed by an African-American architect for the first black-owned company in downtown Chicago.Johnson’s wife, Eunice, who was his right-hand and the fashion director at Ebony, oversaw the design of the interiors, which were done by Arthur Elrod and William Raiser, California designers whose work epitomized the bold color and pattern-saturated aesthetic of the ’70s.Our news team—really the entire company—is feeling motivated and inspired because we have been writing about police brutality since we started, that was the impetus of our beginning.A lot of Black cops, when they start bleeding blue -- you know, you gotta watch it.They lavished the offices with different designs for each floor and magazine, including custom furniture and African art.The Johnson Publishing Corporation declared bankruptcy in April 2019, marking the end of an era.It feels like we have been trained for this and we are ready for it.The archive was then purchased by the Ford Foundation, the J.That's why it is what it is right now.Maybe if we made a more concentrated effort to fix things like low income jobs and inadequate housing, then Black people in poverty wouldn’t feel that they have nothing to lose and turn to a life of crime to sustain themselves? The Black community is well aware that crime is an issue that we must address.

Paul Getty Trust, the John D.Newsrooms and media publications can use their money in a way that will make an impact.and Catherine T.MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W.What do you think of the leadership changes that have happened over the past week? I think there's a lot of industry changes happening in the media.People need to go vote and do what they can to change the status of the climate politically.Mellon Foundation with the intent that the photographs will be donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History, and Culture and the Getty Research Institute.Though the building exterior won landmark status earlier last year, the office’s interiors were dismantled when the building sold in 2010.So I'm still waiting to see what happens next, because to me it's about who you replace them with.

The monograph Arthur Elrod: Desert Modern Design, by Adèle Cygelman, includes photos of the offices in its former glory — and New York’s Museum of Food and Drink hosted a fund-raising drive to reassemble Ebony’s psychedelic test kitchen.If they don't, then I get it, I understand.We spoke with Johnson’s daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, about her parents’ design sensibility and the legacy of Johnson Publishing.A newsroom is all dependent on the editors and the leadership that sets the tone for what's important and what's not important.The Johnsons’ apartment, which was featured in Architectural Digest in 1972.Photo: New York Magazine Photo: New York Magazine “It was my mother who found Arthur Elrod,” Rice says, explaining that Eunice saw an interior designed by Elrod and Raiser in a magazine.Making that a leadership priority is critical.The two designers had established a thriving practice in L.

A.If it's a national publication, such as the New York Times, the replacement should be somebody who is most likely a person of color or someone who has a vision for what, in 10 years, a majority-minority population needs from a news publication.and Palm Springs, and Eunice flew out to discuss designs for the Johnsons’ new apartment on Chicago’s North Lake Shore Drive, where they had purchased two adjoining units.In a 1972 Architectural Digest feature, Eunice said that she told Raiser and Elrod that she wanted the apartment “to complement our two complexions in tones of browns and beige.It's so critical that we all exist with honor and trust and continue to be change agents for truth.We felt this type of setting would be comfortable and flattering.” To that end, the apartment featured rich walnut travertine walls in the living room, a custom zebrawood coffee table, herringbone walnut parquet floors and earth-toned Edward Fields carpets, as well as a sprinkling of zebra- and leopard-print fabrics.What are some of the media's institutional problems that need addressing? How reporters source information and validate their point of view is something that I've seen as a huge opportunity for journalists to really take a look at because there's bias within sourcing of information.

The art included sculptures by Marino Marini and Pablo Picasso, a Marc Chagall painting, and pieces collected from their global travels.The Johnson Publishing Company office lobby.What about outside the newsroom? The elephant in the room to me actually isn't necessarily just about expectations from media publications.Photo: Photograph by Alexandre Georges from Arthur Elrod by Adele Cygelman, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.The Ebony test kitchen.Advertisers and marketers do not want to spend money next to black death and violence.Photo: Photograph by Alexandre Georges from Arthur Elrod by Adele Cygelman, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.

“I grew up in that building,” Rice, now 61, says of the Johnson Publishing offices, describing the days after school when she had the run of the offices.They have paused their campaigns, so I'm essentially running a deficit for covering what's going on, and I'd imagine that many news organizations are doing the same.Rice started working at the corporation in 1980, and succeeded her father as CEO in 2003 (Johnson died in 2005).“It was a beautiful environment to walk into,” Rice says.I try not to tell our news team too often, because I don't want them to feel that because a huge auto company doesn't want to run ads against their work, that their work is not valuable.Visitors entered through the lobby, which had 22-foot ceilings and paneling from Mozambique.“On the wall there was this fantastic custom-designed sculpture by Richard Hunt, a bronze piece hanging from the wall.What is your advice for companies asking how they can better support their black staff? My biggest advice to media companies who are doing a bit of soul searching right now is to listen more and to stop making excuses.

Everything was custom made: the carpet by Edward Fields, the curvilinear sofas covered in faux leather.It had a very lush, ’70s sort of feel, which was reflective of who we were as African Americans.But what matters is, what are you doing today? If I walked up to a black employee in your company today, would they give you a thumbs up or thumbs down? And if it's a thumbs down, then there's no excuse.There was a warmth to it.” Eunice Johnson in her office at Ebony.And it's not easy.Photo: New York Magazine Every floor of the building had a different palette and aesthetic, with each office designed to reflect the sensibility of the magazine.

“The floor for Jet magazine was all leopard print: wall-to-wall leopard print carpet,” Rice says.What is it like for you to cover these killings? I think over time I've become a bit numb, because it does happen so often.“It was a weekly news magazine.It was racy — it was all the news that had happened to African Americans within a week across the country.I remember with Ahmaud (Arbery), my dad FaceTimed me at around seven o'clock at night, which was nine o'clock his time, which is pretty late for my dad.” Johnson’s office.Photo: Photograph by Alexandre Georges from Arthur Elrod by Adele Cygelman, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.It was hard for me to feel my father's pain.

Johnson had a private apartment on the 11th floor of the office, which included a gym, barbershop, and private bath.Photo: Photograph by Alexandre Georges from Arthur Elrod by Adele Cygelman, reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith..Johnson in his office in 1978.Photo: Steven L.When I saw him so upset, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is horrific.Raymer/National Geographic/Getty Images Reflecting on her father’s legacy, Rice says she believes he helped black Americans recognize their success and influence, as well as their buying power.

“He was an entrepreneur, and I think he really was the springboard for many of our African-American business,” Rice says.My dad walks every day, four or five miles a day, and he lives in Nashville where there's plenty of racist people.“He was a genius on every level.”.This might sound bad, but we get videos like this every other week, so the surprise was that people cared.

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The Founder Of America’s Black Millennial Newsroom Speaks Out About Media DiversityI cover the intersection of Hollywood and money—that's everything from media moguls to the highest-paid actors to YouTube stars. When my reporting isn't taking me to Hollywood restaurants and Atlanta's movie lots, I'm writing about the world's richest, including billionaires and self-made women entrepreneurs. Prior to Forbes, I wrote about media, food and education for the New York Observer, and about the New York shopping scene for Racked. Follow me on Twitter MadelinePBerg. Have tips? Send them to me anonymously at, and submit sensitive documents anonymously and securely at MadelinePBerg (RISE+) MadelinePBerg To,U Every One men; Peace B On U, If U R Truth wayed as per Quran Says. Pl. Accept Truth Only Acceptable Religion Islam; Whic acceptable to Almighty Most Powerful,Kind Whole Universe Creator Only Allah, for Success of Earth Life. Or Siny One'll B the Creature of Hell for FOREVER

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