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Johnson Publishing Company Archive Resource Guide

A resource of publications, selected archives, bibliographies, and information relating to the Johnson Publishing Company Archive.

Notable JPC-related Materials and Collections

Other complementary materials to the JPC Archive are available in the Getty Museum collections and the National Museum of African American History and Culture collections using the search links below. Please note that these collections are not associated the JPC Archive, but may be useful in conducting JPC-related research.

Lerone Bennett, Jr. papers, Emory University and Chicago State University

Author and journalist Lerone Bennett, Jr. was an executive editor for Ebony and made a great impact on JPC through his books and other meaningful contributions to the company. Bennett famously wrote Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America, originally published in 1962 followed by multiple editions. Bennett’s other books, including What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and writings in Ebony influenced popular thought about Black people at a pivotal time in history. The Bennett Papers at Emory University include correspondence, writings, subject files, printed material, photographs (including born-digital images), and audiovisual materials.

 

Black Beauty Archives

Black Beauty Archives preserves, documents, and celebrates the history of Black Beauty culture. Their digitized collections curated by Black women include magazines, hair tools, wigs, cosmetics, photographs, posters, oral histories, interviews, and more. Their website also has a library listing books about various aspects of Black Beauty culture. Researchers will find materials related to JPC including magazines and advertisements for Fashion Fair Cosmetics.

 

Black World Magazine collection, 1969-1975, Charles Evans Inniss Memorial Library of Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Negro Digest was founded in 1942 and later returned after a 10-year hiatus in 1961. In 1970, the magazine was renamed Black World and ran until April 1976.  This collection features issues from 1969 through April 1975.

 

Ben Burns papers, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection, Woodson Regional Library, CPL

Ben Burns, executive editor of Ebony and Negro Digest, was widely known for being a white editor working in Black journalism. Before working at JPC, Burns was the national editor for the Chicago Defender. Burns later helped Johnson start Ebony and eventually founded Sepia on his own after leaving JPC. The Burns Papers include correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, clippings, and memorabilia about Burns’ journalism as well as Burns’ personal library.

 

Ebony Fashion Fair Exhibit Administrative materials, 2010-2014, Chicago History Museum

The Chicago History Museum mounted an exhibit titled "Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair," which opened in March 2013 and ran until January 2014 and was curated by Joy Bivins. The exhibit featured numerous pieces from CHM’s costume collection that had appeared in Ebony Fashion Fair, including work from designers Bob Mackie, Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne and others. This collection contains the planning materials related to that exhibit including curator files, travel forms, promotional materials, service invoices, mannequin notes, press coverage, as well as labels and object lists. Additionally, digital images of the exhibition and some of its featured fashions can be found on Capture, CHM’s image hosting website.

 

Flint-Goodridge Hospital collection, Dillard University Archives & Special Collections

Ebony Fashion Fair was created as a way for JPC to support a charity fundraiser fashion show for Dillard University’s hospital. John H. Johnson and Jessie Dent, wife of Dillard University president Albert W. Dent, agreed that JPC would provide garments and magazine subscriptions to ticket holders to this fashion show. Ebony Fashion Fair went on to tour the U.S. for 50 years, highlighting the latest high fashion across the country and eventually becoming the premier fashion event in local African American communities from 1959 to 2009. This collection includes records about Fashion Fair related to Dillard University’s Flint-Goodridge Hospital, the recipient of the funds raised by the show.

 

Hoyt William Fuller collection, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

Hoyt William Fuller was the associate editor of Ebony and an editor for Negro Digest/Black World. Fuller’s impact at JPC went beyond his editor roles as a mentor, critic, consultant, and publisher to contemporary writers. Fuller co-founded the Organization of Black American Culture that created Chicago’s Wall of Respect in May 1976, contributing to the wall mural movement of the 1960s. Fuller traveled extensively during his life, and a collection of his articles about his travels to Guinea and Senegal were published as Journey to Africa. Fuller co-founded the First World Foundation, published First World magazine, and taught as a professor of literature and journalism. This collection includes materials from various points in Fuller’s career and his global travels. 

 

Robert and Naomi Johnson papers, Emory University

Robert Edward Johnson became the executive editor and associate publisher of Jet after starting a long career with JPC in 1953 and was also a frequent contributor to Ebony. Johnson traveled with Ambassador Andrew Young on a tour of Africa in 1979 and was part of the Presidential Press Corps in 1972 visiting several countries with President Richard Nixon. Johnson married Naomi Cole Johnson and had three children together. This collection includes the couple’s papers from 1936-2015, featuring personal and professional papers, printed material, audiovisual material, and memorabilia from Johnson’s career as an editor and journalist as well as his personal and civic life.

 

Johnson Publishing Company clipping files collection, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center

This collection includes newspaper clippings, press releases, and other materials used as research for JPC publications such as Ebony and Jet. Various prominent women are featured in the materials such as Daisy Bates, Mary McLeod Bethune, Fanny Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, Diane Nash, Rosa Parks, and Pauli Murray. There are also materials related to African American organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the National Council of Negro Women, and the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights. Digitized material is available through the Civil Rights Digital Library

 

Gerri Major papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL

Gerri Major was a senior staff editor, society editor, and European correspondent for Ebony, and later, Jet. Major’s work focused on Black society fashion, food, and style around the world, leading her to publish Black Society with JPC’s Book Publishing Division. The Major papers include her writings, scrapbooks, and news clippings about her travels and life, including materials related to her 80th and 85th birthdays.

 

Allan Malcolm Morrison papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL

Allan Malcolm Morrison was the New York editor of Ebony and later the Editorial Bureau Chief of JPC. Before joining JPC, Morrison moved to New York City in 1939 and created Negro World Digest with George Norford and W. Cummings. Morrison was also the first Black war correspondent of Stars and Stripes when he was a sergeant in World War II. Morrison's papers include correspondence, writings, research files, news clippings, and printed material from his career, as well as writings and speeches by other authors.

 

Doris E. Saunders papers, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection, Woodson Regional Library, CPL

Doris E. Saunders created the JPC Library in 1949 after working as a librarian for the Chicago Public Library. Saunders also became the Director of the Book Publishing Division for JPC between 1960 and 1961. Saunders would go on to create the Negro Handbook and co-write Black Society with Gerri Major while pursuing several other journalism and literature-related endeavors. The Saunders Papers include materials related to her time at CPL, JPC, and as a professor at Jackson State University. These materials mostly consist of administrative documents, research files, photographs, correspondence, and newsletters.

 

Era Bell Thompson papers, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection, Woodson Regional Library, CPL

Era Bell Thompson was a photojournalist and international editor for JPC. Thompson’s articles were prominent in Ebony and her books, including American Daughter and Africa: Land of my Fathers are widely known for their impacts on literature and Black culture. Thompson was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2020. Her papers include diaries, financial records, audio and videotapes, monographs, journals, subject clipping files, photographs, and memorabilia.

 

Anne Ridings Trimble papers, Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Western Kentucky University

Anne Ridings Trimble was a provocative pulp romance author and contributor to JPC's Copper Romance. Her stories were published in various romance magazines through the 1940s and 1950s, such as Romance Confessions, Your Romance, True Story, True Romance, and Romance Time. Three of Trimble's stories found in this collection were published in Copper Romance

Griffith J. Davis Photographs & ArchivesGriffith Davis Photograph Collection, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; and Griffith J. Davis photographs and films, 1946-1991, Rubenstein Library, Duke University.

Griffith J. Davis was a renowned photojournalist and diplomat who served as Ebony magazine's first roving editor from 1947-1948. Davis traveled around the world and in the U.S. to capture the shifting socio-political climate of the 20th century. Davis's photographic work and essays appeared in many publications, including Ebony magazine's fifth anniversary issue published in November 1950. As a trailblazer in photojournalism and political advocacy, Davis's lifetime of storytelling, diplomacy, and friendship with Langston Hughes is documented in collections at Griffith J. Davis Photographs & Archives, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, and Rubenstein Library at Duke University.  

 

Guy Crowder photographs, California State University Northridge Tom & Ethel Bradley Center Photographs

Guy Crowder photographed political, social, and athletic events in Los Angeles for over 25 years while working as a freelance photographer for several magazines and newspapers including Ebony and Jet. This collection consists of images of Black politicians, athletes, and celebrities including photographs of nearly every African American celebrity who visited Los Angeles and Las Vegas during Crowder’s career. Highlights include the police attack on the Black Panthers, the 1965 Watts riots, coverage of the Jackson Five and Michael Jackson, the NAACP, the LA Urban League, Magic Johnson, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and much more.

 

Harmon Perry collection, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History

Harmon Perry was a photographer who worked for the Atlanta Daily World and Atlanta Journal before becoming the Atlanta Bureau Chief of Jet Magazine. Perry was the first Black reporter for the Atlanta Journal in 1968 where his first assignment was covering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. The photographs in this collection cover Atlanta social life, politicians, educators, and everyday life in Atlanta from the 1960s through the 1980s. Included are photographs of predominantly Black neighborhoods such as Sweet Auburn and Reynoldstown.

 

Howard Morehead photographs and papers, UCLA Special Collections

Howard Morehead was a photographer, broadcast news cameraman, and impresario who worked on the Los Angeles Sentinel staff while doing freelance work for several magazines. Morehead was the first West Coast staff photographer for JPC and contributed stories and covers for Ebony and Jet. Morehead founded the Miss Bronze California beauty pageant as a response to the systemic discrimination faced by African American women. This collection consists includes photographs of jazz musicians and venues in LA from the mid-1950s through the 1990s as well as large amounts of glamor photography featuring models and beauty pageant contestants. Several actors and politicians are also represented, and some personal and business papers are included with books, videotapes, and sound recordings.

 

Withers Collection Gallery in Memphis Tennessee

Dr. Ernest C. Withers, Sr. was an internationally acclaimed photographer who captured historic images of Black culture and the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis and across the South. Withers’ extensive 1.8 million photograph portfolio includes digitized images of celebrities as well as everyday Memphians that were published in Ebony, Jet, and several other publications outside of JPC such as Life and Time

Black Journal: The Johnson Empire on American Archive of Public Broadcasting 

Black Journal was started as a monthly series produced for, about, and largely by Black Americans using the magazine format to highlight relevant issues to these communities. This episode discusses the successes of JPC and John H. Johnson.

Personal Report: Johnson Publishing Company on Chicago Film Archives 

This episode of the U.S. Information Agency’s television series “Personal Report” features JPC and Ebony magazine. This series highlighted selected aspects of American culture for Nigerian audiences and was hosted by Michael Kubeyinje, a Nigerian student in Washington. Kubeyinje travels to JPC headquarters at 1820 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago and meets with John H. Johnson himself to discuss the business’ history and his goals with starting Ebony in 1945. They tour the building together and Kubeyinje learns about the process of publishing Ebony while meeting with staff members in different departments.

Ebony Fashion Fair Oral History Project

The Ebony Fashion Fair toured the U.S. for 50 years, highlighting the latest high fashion across the country and eventually becoming the premier fashion event in local African American communities from 1959 to 2009. This collection includes interviews with 10 individuals directly involved in organizing and managing the Ebony Fashion Fair in the Twin Cities. Topics covered include logistics, leadership, venues, audiences, fashions, and fundraising as well as the impact on the African American community. Interviewees also discuss their family backgrounds, the civil rights movement, historically Black colleges and universities, Black fraternities and sororities, community involvement and advocacy, building careers in Minnesota, and working with local organizations to host Ebony Fashion Fair runway shows.

 

The HistoryMakers

The HistoryMakers preserves and makes widely accessible the untold personal stories of African Americans through oral histories and other products, services, and events. This search includes oral histories of employees at JPC who made great impacts on the company and on Black culture more generally. Interviewees include Linda Johnson Rice, Kathleen E. Bethel, Louis Carr, Lerone Bennett, Jorja Palmer, Henry H. Brown, Carolyn Armenta Davis, Leroy Winbush, and many more.

Photograph Credit

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.