Tribute: John H. Johnson

By Nicole Singleton, Contributing Writer

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

John Harold Johnson, founder and publisher of Ebony magazine, died August 8, 2005, in Chicago, of heart failure at the age of 87.

Many people loved Johnson. He built a publishing empire celebrating the achievements and greatness of African Americans. Some say he was an awesome “Black” publisher, while others simply say he was the greatest of all American publishers. Those who knew and admired him knew Johnson as a “man of action”.

At the young age of 20. John Johnson sold his mother’s furniture for $500 to launch his first magazine. Ebony magazine currently has a circulation of 1.6 million subscribers making it the most popular Black-owned magazine in the world. Ebony’s publication changed America with words as well as positive images of black people.

With $500 Johnson built a media empire that 60 years later is still the number one media company in the African American community and still 100 percent Black-owned. Johnson’s business empire included Jet magazine, Ebony Fashion Fair, and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Through words and images Johnson gave a powerful voice to the black community.

Johnson’s biography, “Succeeding Against the Odds,” beautifully displayed his determination and dedication to make a difference in the lives of our nation. “Failure is a word I don’t accept,” Johnson wrote. “There’s an advantage in every disadvantage, and a gift in every problem,” he added.

In 1996 President Bill Clinton awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed on civilians.

John Johnson epitomized innovation, grace, leadership, and endurance for the entire nation. He gave a voice to millions of people. And millions more to come. He will be missed


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