JPC was founded in Chicago in 1942 by John H. Johnson with a $500 loan, using his mother's furniture as collateral. Its first title, Negro Digest, appeared later that year, followed by its flagship publications Ebony in 1945 and Jet in 1951. During its peak from the 1960s until the early 2000s, Johnson Publishing Company was the largest Black-owned public media company. In 2019, the changing media landscape prompted JPC to file for liquidation, allowing for the reinvention of the historic brand. At the time of liquidation, the Archive was purchased jointly by the Smithsonian Institution, the Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and J. Paul Getty Trust, with the Getty Research Institute and the National Museum of African American History and Culture sharing stewardship responsibilities. Under the leadership of John H. Johnson's daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, JPC re-emerged in 2021 as a multimedia and production company. Ebony and Jet are now owned by Bridgeman Sports and Media.
The Archive is co-owned by Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the J. Paul Getty Trust and is being cataloged and digitized for eventual public access.
Photograph of Eunice Walker Johnson, John H. Johnson, and Linda Johnson Rice.
This Resource Guide and Bibliography highlights analog and digitized collections related to JPC, relevant programming and events, and other media such as JPC-published books. This site will be updated periodically to include information about the history of JPC and the Johnson family, as well as insights into cataloging and digitizing the JPC Archive for public access.
Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Made possible by the Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution.