As the new age of technology phases out print media, there is still plenty of life in the Johnson publishing company founded by John H. Johnson. He is the perfect rags-to-riches story, and is an inspiration to those who believe in hard work and sacrifices to feed your ambition. Even with a couple of tough breaks early on in life, he preserved to create the most successful Black-owned publishing company in the world. Even today, his legacy continues strong, although print media is having trouble keeping up with the changing times.
Born on January 19th, 1918, schooling was an issue in the segregated mess that was Arkansas City. With no African-American high school available, he had to repeat the 8th grade just to stay in school. The family looked for better opportunities elsewhere and decided to move to Chicago, Illinois. After more struggling, both Johnson and his stepfather found work. Johnson, however, remained in school while working, and managed to find an all-black high school. However, kids are kids. Although he was now attending a high school with his peers, he was teased for being poor. This eventually fueled his inspiration to make something of himself.
He faced several hardships on his way to creating his first successful magazine named “The Negro Digest” in 1942. Several people faithfully supported his vision, but he couldn’t reach key markets. It wasn’t until he teamed up with distributor Joseph Levy that he finally reached his core audience. The name of the publication first changed to become “Black World,” but the most successful was the spin-off magazine “Ebony.” In 1951, “Jet” joined the roster, and eventually “Ebony Jr” was released as well. Johnson published several magazines over the course of his life, but the one that will define him the most will always be Ebony, not that it is a bad thing.
Johnson is a successful businessman that was on the board of several big name clothing and cosmetic companies, while also leading his own entrepreneurial endeavors to success. His philanthropic efforts also took him overseas to foster international relations. With a net worth of half a billion dollars, he was also the first African American to be named to the Forbes 400. Whether you’re in a doctor’s office, a barber shop, or even the waiting room of the mechanic, chances are you’ll have access to one of his many magazines.