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Sat, 01.19.1918

John H. Johnson, a standard for Black publishing

John H. Johnson

*John Johnson was born on this date in 1918. He was a Black businessman, philanthropist, and publisher.

John Harold Johnson was born in Arkansas City, Arkansas and started his education in a segregated elementary school. Because there was no public high school for Blacks in Arkansas City in 1930s, his widowed mother had a plan.  She saved money for two years and moved with her son to Chicago as part of the Great Migration of 1933. Johnson enrolled in DuSable High School and was an excellent student. He was president of his class, editor-in-chief of the high school paper, and won a scholarship to the University of Chicago.

He later landed a job with Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company where he collected news and information about African Americans and preparing a weekly digest. It was there that he got the idea for starting his first magazine, Negro Digest, in 1942. Three years later, Johnson launched his second publication, Ebony, highlighting the successes of African Americans. Six years after that, he created Jet., focusing on African Americans in politics, entertainment, business, and sports. Johnson added book publishing, Fashion Fair Cosmetics, several radio stations, and majority ownership in Supreme Liberty Life Insurance.

In 1982, he was the first Black to be included in Forbes Magazine’s 400 Richest Americans. Johnson's 1989 autobiography, "Succeeding Against The Odds," was a national bestseller in hardcover and paperback, and an updated version was published in 2004. Johnson held five honorary degrees from major universities, including Howard, Morehouse, and Harvard. Recently Johnson donated $4 million in support of the School of Communications at Howard University. His gift continues a legacy of visionary leadership in the field of communications, particularly the mass media industry. Johnson Publications has revenues in excess of $140 million.

Publisher also of EM, Johnson also sponsored the American Black Achievement Awards television program and the Ebony Fashion Fair a touring fashion show. He attributed much of his success to his mother, who believed that if you try hard enough, there is always a chance you can win. John H. Johnson died on August 8, 2005.

Reference:
Ebony Magazine
Johnson Publishing
820 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago IL 60605

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